European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's traditional annual speech on the agricultural sector was not only striking because of the many kind words she said about 'our farmers', but especially because of what she did not say.
Von der Leyen said Brussels offers the agricultural sector "a listening ear" and "a strategic dialogue." What this means in concrete terms will mainly depend on what Commissioner Janus Wojciechowski and the new Climate Chief Maroš Šefčovič have in store for the next year and a half. And it is precisely in many of the final stages of the Green Deal that the shoe seems to be in trouble.
Although Von der Leyen said that her European Commission will stick to the Green Deal, she then said nothing about biodiversity, farm-to-table, animal welfare and food sustainability.
Earlier last week, the usually well-informed Financial Times reported (in a preview of the annual speech) that a number of announced and already in preparation Climate and Environmental Laws will be put on hold, and may therefore be postponed until after the European elections ( June 2024). The English business newspaper based the suggested postponement on statements from 4 EU diplomats.
The European Commission is reportedly considering abandoning new animal welfare rules, although Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has stressed several times in both the Agriculture Committee and the Environment Committee that she will make that proposal 'later this year'.
Parts of the announced innovation are already known, such as a ban on keeping animals in cages, limiting the duration of livestock transports and a ban on killing day-old chicks.
The fact that EU offices in Brussels are now working on lists for 'postponement' or 'cancellation' is not only related to the upcoming European election campaign, but also to long 'to do' lists at various EU Services.
Moreover, after the departure of three Commissioners (Frans Timmermans, Margrete Verstager and Mariya Gabriel), tasks and portfolios must be transferred (read: passed on) to newcomers to the Commission.
Since last week, there have also been reports from Spain, the current EU chairman, about the cancellation or weakening of important agricultural laws. Regarding the halving of dangerous chemicals in agriculture, Spanish LNV Minister Luis Planas says he needs at least three or four (monthly) meetings of professional technicians, which will delay the proposal again.
Meanwhile, German LNV Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) has announced a new compromise that provides more clarity about the mandatory national target and about a complete ban on use 'in ecologically vulnerable areas'.
The possible consequences of Von der Leyen's 'listening ear and strategic dialogue' are not on the agenda of the monthly EU-LNV ministerial council in Brussels on Monday, but are expected to be the topic of discussion in the informal corridors.