The parliamentarians of the ENVI Committee will vote on June 15 on the Nature Restoration Law as proposed by the Vice-President of the European Commission and Green Deal leader Frans Timmermans. And this vote is drawing all the attention of the Brussels bubble right now. Meanwhile, the negotiations resemble a political contest worthy of House of Cards in the European bubble’s version. In this case, it is a showdown between the EPP and the polyglot Frans Timmermans.
A majority with one vote
Indeed, the EPP withdrew from negotiations on the text, leaving Pascal Canfin (Renew), chairman of the ENVI Committee and a supporter of the European Commission’s proposed legislation, with the extremely delicate task of finding a majority for the text in his own group as well as among the Greens, the S&D and the Left. As it stands, he would only have a one-vote majority to get the proposal through, he said recently in Paris. Actually, this would be a good time to place the popcorn emoji right here.
And when you say that the Brussels Bubble is boiling, it looks like this: On the one hand, there are the supporters of the Commission’s proposal, who are coming together in a coalition to urge EU parliamentarians to support the proposal. We are talking, for example, about hunters or even companies – 1,400, which is no small number – which together account for five trillion dollars – which is definitely not a small sum in turn.
On the other hand, the EPP does not hesitate to publish accusations of pressure that the group allegedly faces from the Commission – and also denounces “hidden lobbying” by the Business and Biodiversity platform, which is housed in the Environment Directorate-General. It would contact members of Parliament and send out an information package. It looks like the Commission is funding its own lobby, which goes beyond the normal role of a commission, said Esther de Lange, EPP deputy group leader.
‘Turnaround in the ENVI Committee’
There is no doubt that environmental issues have become top political priorities, on par with budgetary or geopolitical issues. The political parties in Brussels have understood this, of course, and one year before the elections they are refining their strategies. In this respect, the EPP had a good nose. For it was able to score point victories on several occasions.
On May 23, the co-advisory AGRI Committee rejected the proposal for the Nature Restoration Regulation. The rejection was defended by French Anne Sander, EPP member and draftsperson, and passed with 30 votes in favor, 16 against and one abstention. The EPP received the votes of the two far-right groups ECR and ID, one deputy from La Gauche, and all Renew deputies, except for the abstention of Frenchman Jérémy Decerle. The votes against the rejection, mainly from S&D and the Greens, were not enough.
The next day, it was the Fisheries Committee’s turn to reject the regulation: 15 MEPs were in favor, mainly from the EPP, ID and ECR groups; 13 were against, from the S&D, Greens and La Gauche groups. The Renew group was split: Three were for rejection, one against, French Stéphanie Yon-Courtin. French Green MEP Caroline Roose, draftsman of the committee’s opinion, called the vote “shameful”.
The EPP Group won a third political victory on May 25 in the dossier to revise the Industrial Emissions Directive. The Commission had proposed including livestock farms. The ENVI Committee did not reject this, but increased the thresholds to limit the number of agricultural installations affected (between 200 and 300 livestock units depending on the type of animal, compared to the initial proposed threshold of 150). It also excluded farms with extensive livestock production.
On this occasion, German Peter Liese (EPP) welcomed a “turnaround in the ENVI Committee” and reported that it had “for the first time“ “considerably weakened in all points” a Commission proposal.
Alliance of right-wingers and right-wing extremists
The leader of the EPP group, Manfred Weber, has recently tightened his position towards the Green Deal: In 2019 he had to support this political project wanted by Ursula von der Leyen, who, like him, comes from the CDU-CSU and was put at the head of the Commission by Angela Merkel. However, he no longer has this concern now that his party is no longer part of the coalition that governs in Berlin. With his rejection, Weber is siding with parties even further to the right. This is also in line with the political trend observed in several member states, where alliances between the right and the extreme right are becoming more frequent (Italy, Sweden and Finland).
So has the Green Deal become a political pawn? EPP Group Vice-President Esther de Lange answered this question with a firm “no” in the press room in Brussels. “The EPP has always supported the Green Deal”, she said. She said the EPP wanted to put the question of “quality before speed” before passing the ball back to the Green Group, which she said was blocking all “forward-looking” and “nature-friendly” technological advances. Claire Stam