Major setback for European Commissioner Frans Timmermans and his nature restoration proposal: Belgian Prime Minister De Croo was the first head of government to explicitly oppose it.
In the Belgian TV show Until the point said the Prime Minister on Tuesday evening: “We have to press the pause button at European level.” According to him, EU countries should prioritize the fight against climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “It is the priority and there is a risk that the new rules of nature will make this fight more difficult. Europe must guard against a lasagna of rules which makes it difficult to invest. (…) It does not must not overload the cart.
EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans stressed on Monday that restoring nature and tackling climate change go hand in hand. They are both part of the so-called Green Deal: the broad set of measures the EU is implementing to become a sustainable economy. And where nature restoration and the energy transition would collide, for example with the construction of offshore wind turbines, the energy transition will take priority, as simply stated in the European Commission’s proposal, Timmermans said.
What is the Wildlife Restoration Act?
The Nature Restoration Bill includes measures to improve soil quality and halt the decline of insect species that pollinate crops. The European Commission proposed this because biodiversity in Europe has been declining for years. She points out that agriculture and our food supply are highly dependent on nature. More than 75% of crops depend on pollinators, such as bees, bumblebees and hoverflies that fly from flower to flower, transferring pollen grains to the pistil. To bear fruit. It is precisely these insects that are now dying.
However, opponents fear new regulations, when it is difficult enough to implement the existing laws of nature. See the nitrogen problem in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has been drawing attention to this for weeks. But where Minister Van der Wal (Nitrogen) has pledged to adjust the proposals, the Belgian Prime Minister is now saying outright that they must leave the table altogether for now.
De Croo’s statements cause a stir in his own country. The Greens, coalition partners, are furious that the prime minister took a stand without any prior consultation. “This is not the government line,” said Federal Environment Minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo). One of the two party presidents, Nadia Naji, even described the Prime Minister’s remarks as “scandalous” on Twitter. She writes: ,,Nature and climate go hand in hand. Instead of wanting to hit a pause button, you just need to speed up.”
And then there are the Flemish and Walloon governments. In Belgium, the federal government can only take a position on many issues if the governments of Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Region agree. On several occasions in recent years, the representative of Belgium has therefore had to sit on his hands during European meetings.
The Walloon Minister for the Environment, Céline Tellier (from the Ecolo green party): ,,I fell out of my chair. This is not Belgium’s position. This law is important. We still have a few weeks to find a Belgian consensus.” His Flemish colleague, Zuhal Demir (from the centre-right N-VA) wants to go the other way. “De Croo should not question a law, but the whole of European climate policy. Just hitting a pause button for this law alone is kinda neither meat nor fish,” she said in a written response to the show. “If De Croo really wants to profile himself as a great leader, he will join Macron and myself in advocating for a return to reality for all European climate policy.” Earlier, French President Macron had called for such a pause, but later said he had been misunderstood.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee voted against the bill. The Committee on Fisheries followed suit today: also against. But the leader on this subject is the Environment Committee, which will vote on June 15. Then it is the turn of the entire parliament and if the law is still in force, negotiations with the 27 member states will follow.
For Frans Timmermans, this is perhaps the toughest opposition he has had since introducing his green plans in 2020. Earlier this year, Germany stood up at the very last minute to an agreement to restrict the sale of new passenger cars with internal combustion engines, also under the Green Deal. But there was great outrage over it in most other countries and in parliament and a compromise could be reached within weeks. This seems out of sight for the law of nature restoration.
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