European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday proposed withdrawing a bill aimed at halving pesticide use in the EU that was blocked by MPs and criticized at recent agricultural demonstrations.
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Central element of the “Green Deal”, the legislative project on pesticides proposed by Brussels in June 2022, which is intended to halve the use and risks of chemical pesticides at EU level by 2030 (compared to the period 2015-2017).
The proposal “has become a symbol of polarization,” complained Ursula von der Leyen in Strasbourg, while angry farmers have been denouncing what are seen as excessive European environmental standards for weeks.
“It was rejected by Parliament, and there is no more progress in the Council (member states). For this reason, I will propose to the College (of Commissioners) to withdraw this proposal,” she told MEPs.
“The issue remains relevant,” but “to move forward, more dialogue and a different approach are needed.” “The Commission could present a new, much more sophisticated proposal with the participation of stakeholders,” Ms. von der Leyen said, without giving a date .
“Farmers need economic reasons to take conservation measures, perhaps we have not convincingly presented these reasons to them,” she lamented.
However, the European Parliament rejected the proposal at the end of November after amendments from elected representatives of the PPE (right) largely stripped it of its content to avoid “unrealistic” restrictions on the agricultural world. An extremely rare rejection that contributed to its de facto burial a few months before the European elections in June 2024, while the EU's “Green Deal” appears as a scarecrow.
In theory, agriculture ministers could continue to debate the text, but in practice negotiations between the 27 countries are permanently stuck as several states express concern about the impact on yields and production.
In the face of the agricultural crisis, the European executive is eager to multiply its commitments: last week it proposed granting a partial exemption from unused commitments and limiting Ukrainian agricultural imports, after already refraining last year from adopting a text on nutritional labeling (type Nutriscore). .
Ursula von der Leyen assured again on Tuesday that she was aware of the agricultural plight: Given the effects of climate change and the war in Ukraine, “many farmers feel cornered (..) They deserve to be listened to.” .
“They also know that agriculture needs to move to a more sustainable production model. We want to ensure that they remain in control of the process,” she stressed, recalling that in January she had launched a “strategic dialogue” with the sector on the future prospects.
“We must go beyond a polarized debate, build trust (…) We must avoid blaming each other and look for solutions to problems together,” she argued.