David McAllister MEP: For a regulatory slow-down
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David McAllister MEP: For a regulatory slow-down

In June 2022 he European Commission proposed new laws, setting EU-wide binding targets, for pesticide reduction and nature restoration.

On pesticides: the law proposal sets legally-binding targets at EU level to reduce by 50 percent the use and the risk of chemical pesticides as well as the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030, in line with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy.

On nature restoration: the proposal sets multiple binding restoration targets and obligations across a broad range of ecosystems, from forests and agricultural land to urban areas, rivers and marine habitats. These measures should cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) is scheduled to vote on nature restoration in June. The Agriculture and Fisheries Committees (AGRI and PECH) voted to reject the proposal on 24 and 25 May 2023. It is still unclear when the vote on pesticides will take place in the Environment Committee.

The EPP Group continues to negotiate these laws with other political groups constructively, but is willing to reject them if our reservations are not taken into consideration. When Parliament’s Agriculture and Fisheries Committees respectively rejected the nature restoration law proposal, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that the Commission will not withdraw or redraft the law.

When there is a war in Europe, we cannot do business as usual. When energy prices explode, we must avoid anything that fires up inflation. When food production is under pressure, we must avoid anything that makes food more expensive. When many companies are struggling with the current crisis, we must not create new bureaucracy for them. For as long as Russia’s war in Ukraine puts economic pressure on us, I believe we must postpone any new laws that make food, housing and energy more expensive for ordinary people.

I am glad that other leaders have finally joined the call of the EPP Group for a regulatory slow-down. President von der Leyen recently said the EU needs to “assess its capacity to absorb the large number of new laws”, including on climate change. French President Macron called for a „regulatory break“ on EU green law to allow industry to digest the large quantity of regulation. Belgian Prime Minister De Croo has joined calls to stop environmental regulation to “prevent overburdening” companies. The EPP Group has been calling for this for a long time. If climate wins and the rest of society loses, we will not achieve the green transition.

Some parts of Europe’s green transition, the “Green Deal”, must certainly be accelerated – like rolling out renewable energy to get away from Russian fossil fuels. But other parts must be re-evaluated.

Since the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Fisheries Committees rejected the law on nature restoration, the EPP Group calls on Commission Vice-President Timmermans to withdraw the law proposal immediately. The plan designed before the war, needs to be re-evaluated and reassessed. There are currently some 23 laws that already regulate nature restoration. More regulation will bring no added value.

The green transition will not work if it just leads to increasing prices, less food production in Europe, and businesses shutting down. All parts of society have to be able to embrace the green transition. Only together, in a joint effort from families to shop owners and from farmers to heavy industry, will we be able to achieve our targets. That is why I am in favour of a pause, a regulatory slow-down.

As we are in the middle of a food crisis, one example is the law project to cut pesticide use in agriculture. We all want fewer pesticides in our agricultural production. We are in favour of reducing pesticides, but the current law proposal is unbalanced and does not take into account reductions already made in several countries. If this law is not profoundly changed, we are ready to vote against it.

Another example is the law project on nature restoration. Amongst others, it contains an obligation for European farmers to abandon 10 percent of their farmland and do all of their food production, animal breeding and farming on only 90 percent of the agricultural areas they own. This will increase food prices and disown farmers who are already struggling with very high grain and fertiliser costs. This may put more farmers out of business, will lead to more imports of food that is produced below our standards for safe and sustainable food and could even lead to a global famine.

For the EPP Group, preserving and protecting nature for future generations is a priority. But this must not hinder the roll-out of renewable energies. We want agriculture, forestry, nature protection and renewable energy production to work hand in hand. We want to better protect our ecosystems, plants, animals, forests, oceans and biodiversity. But we want this to be done wisely. We will not support any law that endangers much-needed projects to build houses or renewable energy infrastructure.

Despite several requests, the European Commission has not provided a comprehensive impact assessment on the economic and social consequences of these law projects.

The EPP Group is in favour of reducing pesticides. But since the Russian war in Ukraine has threatened global food security and caused malnutrition, we believe that we should not act as if nothing has happened. It is our duty to safeguard food production and global food markets. We need to grow more food – not less. Putting the entire burden on the shoulders of farmers now, by prohibiting the sensible use of pesticides, would not help anyone.

The EPP Group is in favour of protecting nature. We want to better protect our forests, oceans and the animals in them, but we want to protect people, too. Our approach should be forward-looking. We do not need restoration in the sense of going back to the past, but we need a development of biodiversity. Europe’s nature in the 1950s might have looked beautiful, but it was not as healthy as many seem to think. And if the nature restoration law hinders the roll-out of renewable energies, then the law is ill-conceived.

Large parts of the Green Deal have already been adopted; the EPP was one of the driving forces and voted for it. But we are defending ordinary citizens, house owners, farmers, small companies and many more. Initially hesitating, there are now more and more Liberals joining our stance to go ahead with the Green Deal, but to do it wisely. We must concentrate on its core parts and make sure all parts of society are able to embrace the green transition.