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The European Green Deal: Benefits and concerns for farmers

The European Green Deal: Benefits and concerns for farmers

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
28.02.2024 16:30

The European Parliament has passed another Green Deal directive. What do the new rules include, and why do some people deem them controversial?

On 27 February, the European Parliament passed the Directive on the restoration of biodiversity, which is part of the Green Deal legislation. Despite protests from farmers in various European countries, including Poland, 329 MEPs voted in favour of the directive, 275 voted against it, and 24 abstained.

80% of European habitats are in poor shape

EU member states have pledged to restore no less than 30% of natural habitats currently in a poor state by the end of 2030. By 2050, they have committed to restoring 90% of these habitats. Currently, over 80% of ecosystems in Europe are in poor shape. The regulation applies to different types of natural habitats, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and corals. If the destruction of these habitats continues, they will be lost forever, and future generations will be deprived of their benefits. Each member country will create its own restoration plans to achieve the EU's objectives.

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EU member states are to restore biodiversity

Large-scale and annual cultivation of a single crop species in agriculture is causing a decline in biodiversity. In Europe, over 70% of arable land is used to produce animal feed, mainly barley, maise, sorghum and triticale. This monoculture is destroying biodiversity, and EU countries need to take action to restore it. They must make progress in at least two out of three areas, including the abundance index of butterflies in grassland areas, the proportion of landscape elements with high diversity on agricultural land, and the stock of organic carbon in mineral soils on arable land.

These indicators are a measure of healthy ecosystems, which are essential for maintaining soil fertility. Currently, depleted soils are being watered with excessive amounts of fertilisers, causing ecological damage to rivers, lakes and seas. This short-sighted approach is cheaper than reviewing farming practices.

Some farmers are protesting against the changes, which they see as "unnecessary EU inventions" or local political manoeuvres. However, if we continue to exploit the environment similarly, we will eventually destroy it. The aim of EU policy is not to make anyone's life miserable but to ensure that future generations can continue to produce food in Europe.

Polish politicians against the EU directive

During the voting on the Directive, the MEPs who supported it were from the Left (excluding Mr Liberadzki) and Róża Thun, the only representative of Poland 2050 (Polska 2050) in the EP. However, all the MEPs from Law and Justice (PiS) (27), Civic Platform (PO) (11) and PSL (2) voted against the directive. When asked about the vote, PO MEP Andrzej Halicki explained that while they strongly favour nature conservation, they decided to vote against the proposal for the restoration of natural resources due to the unclear and inaccurate proposals it contained regarding agriculture.

César Luena, a Member of the European Parliament and the rapporteur for the project from the Spanish PSOE party, which is affiliated with the Socialist and Democrat (S&D) political group, had a different perspective on the matter. He emphasised that the regulation would enable the restoration of degraded ecosystems while ensuring that it is done "respectfully towards the agricultural sector." Member states will have the flexibility to enforce the restoration of ecosystems on farmers or private owners.

The agricultural protests, which have an intensely anti-EU narrative, can be confusing to an average person. EU subsidies are responsible for the continued existence of European agriculture. Without them, it would not be able to compete with cheaper imports of plant products or meat from Africa or Asia. The purpose of subsidising agriculture is to ensure food security for the community.

It is interesting to note that EU regulations aimed at preventing environmental destruction in Poland can be further resisted due to an unfortunate translation. The European Green Deal, when translated officially, appears as "Green Order" in our country. This choice of words is not ideal as "Deal" better conveys the nature of a jointly negotiated and voted agreement, whereas "Order" can be more easily perceived as something being imposed.

Source: oko.press, europarl.europa.eu

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