EVP/CDA votes divided on Weber's course against the Nature Restoration Act

A large majority of the European Parliament did not cooperate with the EPP/CDA faction's proposal to completely repeal the Nature Restoration Act. After many agricultural ministers in Brussels again pressed for relaxation of agricultural policy last Monday following the ongoing farmers' demonstrations, most MEPs in Strasbourg had no intention of further dismantling the Nature Restoration Act.

In the EU, agricultural organizations and Christian Democrats have been campaigning against environmental and climate proposals for several months. The Green Deal laws of former commissioner Frans Timmermans in particular will suffer. Although EPP faction leader Manfred Weber received support from several dozen politicians from conservative, extreme right-wing and nationalist circles, about a third of his own EPP voted against his collision course.

There are also reservations in EPP circles about Weber's strategy for cooperation with the extreme right, to prevent those groups from winning many votes in the European elections. Recent opinion polls indicate this, especially in Germany, Spain and France. The previous ballot box victories of BBB and PVV in the Netherlands are regularly mentioned in the corridors in Brussels and Strasbourg.

The now adopted text of the Nature Restoration Act is very similar to the text previously adopted by the EU countries, including a number of commitments to also get conservative politicians on board. The law will soon oblige the EU countries - in addition to protecting nature - to restore natural areas.

To this end, the Member States must set ten-year targets on which they must report annually to Brussels, roughly comparable to the consultation procedure for the so-called national strategy plans in agricultural policy.

Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks) said that 'the most important thing is that this law has finally reached the finish line. We would of course have wanted a much more concrete law, but the margins were unprecedentedly small. What exists now is mainly an obligation to get started. In the Netherlands too, a new cabinet cannot ignore it: nature must be restored.”

CDA MEP Annie Schreijer-Pierik was one of the advocates (together with SGP member Bert-Jan Ruissen) of the rejected rejection proposal: ''As a MEP, I have warned about this from the start. The consequences for the Netherlands are incalculable because we are focused on paper reality and have therefore lost sight of reality. Another new law on top of that will only make the situation worse.”

“A victory for our vulnerable nature,” said Anja Hazekamp (PvdD) in response to the vote. “The narrow majority shows that every green vote is of global importance to defend animals, nature and the environment. This is desperately needed in times when commercial interests and conservative forces are increasingly gaining the upper hand in European politics.” Mohamed Chahim (PvdA) also responded optimistically to the failed blockade.

Anja Haga (Christian Union) also voted in favor of the law. The European People's Party (EPP), of which Haga's faction is a part, voted against. 'Many politicians have been frightened by the farmers' protests and do not dare to make choices. That doesn't help the farmers, on the contrary. Agriculture deserves future-oriented choices that farmers can rely on. Fortunately, the majority of the European Parliament eventually recognized this.'

Just earlier this week, the CDA reported that the European People's Party (EPP) will argue for a revision of Natura-2000 gebieden. According to the CDA, this will be part of the EPP election manifesto for the European elections of June 6. EVP/CDA is thus encouraging an important change of course in European nature policy. 

According to CDA MEP Tom Berendsen, it is 'in the interest of the Netherlands that we have got our European colleagues behind this plan. Our country is currently on lockdown, because we agreed years ago to protect specific plants and animals in certain areas. With today's knowledge you may wonder whether this is still feasible everywhere.'