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13th Apr 2024

EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash

  • The watering-down was needed to get enough support from member states and an increasingly unfriendly parliament (Photo: James Baltz/Unsplash)
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The EU Parliament approved the long-debated Nature Restoration Law on Tuesday (27 February) — despite last-minute lobbying efforts from the agricultural sector.

Hailed with loud applause by the 329 MEPs that approved the text, the final compromise approved is much weaker than the original EU Commission proposal first tabled in 2022.

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This watering down was needed to get enough support from member states and an increasingly unfriendly parliament.

After already failing to scupper the file twice last year the European People's Party (EPP) led by Germany's Manfred Weber sent out a communiqué on Monday advising its members to vote down the text.

And while a majority of the parliament's biggest party voted against the compromise, the party was divided and a significant minority, 28 EPP MEPs, voted to approve the law.

The liberal Renew party was also divided — with many German and Dutch MEPs opposing the law.

The Nature Restoration Law was finally passed with a margin of 54 votes.

Ahead of the vote, the agricultural lobbyist Copa-Cogeca sent out a list of voting recommendations to MEPs, telling them what to vote for.

"A filled-out ballot to be used during the vote. With pluses and minuses without any further motivation or information," complained Socialist and Democrats MEP Mohammed Chahim on social media.

"[Copa-Cogeca doesn't] want politicians to inform themselves but to blindly adopt their positions," he added.

Tuesday's vote followed serious and violent protests in Brussels, where several hundred tractors had gathered to block the EU quarter where agricultural ministers had gathered to discuss agricultural policy, amid a general backlash against Brussels green rules.

The approved legislation gives member states two years to plan how they will restore 20 percent of the EU's land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems by 2050.

This is significant because, according to the EU Commission, around 80 percent of Europe's natural habitats are in poor health.

Ireland's Sean Kelly, who was among the minority of EPP MEPs that voted to approve the text, said that the "next stage of the process will be an in-depth consultation with farmers and fishers who will have an opportunity to contribute" to national restoration plans.

"This is not some sort of 'land grab' and that needs to be made abundantly clear," he said to reassure farmers. "Obligations to deliver on this law do not lie with individual farmers and landowners. It is up to the government to lead on restoration measures."

The law will be rubber-stamped by the EU's environment ministers next month.

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