Environment: EU states pass controversial nature conservation law

Environment: EU states pass controversial nature conservation law
Environment: EU states pass controversial nature conservation law

Plans for an ambitious new EU nature conservation law were hanging in the balance until recently. Now a decision has been made. The solo effort of an Austrian Green Party makes this possible.

The EU states have cleared the way for a highly controversial nature conservation law. According to this law, more trees are to be planted in the European Union and moors and rivers are to be returned to their natural state. A sufficient majority of EU states approved the plan in Luxembourg, which was criticized primarily by farmers and conservatives, as the current Belgian EU Council Presidency announced.

The project was the subject of long and intense debate. The EU Commission proposed the so-called Renaturation Act almost exactly two years ago. According to official figures, around 80 percent of habitats in the European Union are in poor condition. In addition, 10 percent of bee and butterfly species are threatened with extinction and 70 percent of soils are in poor condition.

Law in weakened form

While environmentalists, numerous scientists and companies supported the law, there was great resistance, especially from Christian Democrats and farmers’ associations. Critics fear that the cuts would be too great for farmers and thus have an impact on food production in the EU. In order to address these concerns, the law was significantly weakened during the negotiation process.

The EU countries and the EU Parliament had actually already agreed on a compromise in November. According to this, farmers will no longer be obliged to make a certain percentage of their land available for environmentally friendly measures, something that farmers had feared. Acceptance by both co-legislators, the EU states and the Parliament, is usually a formality. The EU Parliament also gave its final approval to the law in Strasbourg. However, a number of countries are still against the plan.

Austrian Chancellor: Climate Minister not authorized

The majority now came about as a result of a change of course in Austria. The Alpine republic’s climate protection and environment minister, Leonore Gewessler (Greens), approved the law, thereby opposing her conservative coalition partner, the Chancellor’s party ÖVP. Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer believes that his minister’s actions are unlawful. If she approves, she will file an action for annulment with the European Court of Justice, he had announced in advance. Gewessler had stated that her approval was legally secure.

With the approval of the EU states, the law has actually been passed. If no further legal pitfalls arise with regard to Austria’s approach, the legal text would only have to be translated into the official EU languages ​​and published in the Official Journal so that the provisions can come into force.

In an initial reaction, the Green Party’s negotiator in the European Parliament, German MEP Jutta Paulus, spoke of a success in the fight against species extinction and the consequences of the climate crisis. Without biodiversity, there would be no fertile soil, no clean air and no drinkable water, said Paulus.

Source: Stern

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