Green Deal Under Threat After E.U. Elections

While climate change is expected to be relegated in the E.U.’s priorities after the European elections, farmers are unlikely to see changes in their work in the near future.
Aurseulle, France - JUNE 24: Posters with images of local candidates for the first round of the 2024 French legislative elections (AP)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jun. 25, 2024 20:19 UTC

After the June elec­tions, the new bal­ance of power in the European Parliament sug­gests that cli­mate change is no longer a top pri­or­ity for European cit­i­zens amid the ris­ing cost of liv­ing on the con­ti­nent, migra­tion and the ongo­ing Russo-Ukrainian war.

The European Greens, a polit­i­cal party rep­re­sent­ing envi­ron­men­tal­ist and pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal forces from the E.U.’s 27 mem­ber states, has suf­fered exten­sive losses in the elec­tions. The party earned only 51 par­lia­men­tary seats, down from 71 seats in 2019.

Farmers already have a lot to do under the E.U.’s green direc­tives, and I do not expect things to change much with the new par­lia­men­tary com­po­si­tion.- Dimitris Mavroidis, Livanates agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion

On the other hand, the parliament’s far right, con­sist­ing of Eurosceptic and pop­ulist par­ties such as the French National Rally, has made sig­nif­i­cant gains. The con­ser­v­a­tive cen­ter-right European People’s Party (EPP) has remained the largest group in the European Parliament, grab­bing 189 seats (13 more than in the 2019 elec­tions).

The European Parliament com­prises 720 directly elected mem­bers (or seats). While only the European Commission can ini­ti­ate leg­is­la­tion in the European Union, the par­lia­ment acts as a co-leg­is­la­tor by adopt­ing and amend­ing the commission’s leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als.

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In pre­vi­ous European par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, cli­mate protests had pushed envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns to the fore­front of the polit­i­cal agenda across most of the E.U.,” Jessica Haak, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Hamburg University in Germany, told The Guardian. Although vot­ers in some Western European coun­tries still con­sider cli­mate issues impor­tant, they pri­or­i­tized eco­nomic con­cerns, migra­tion and war.”

According to some experts, the losses of Europe’s cli­mate change-minded par­ties could even shake the foun­da­tions of the E.U.’s ambi­tious poli­cies.

Kiss good­bye to the European Green Deal,” Simon Hix, a pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, told the Financial Times about the E.U.’s 2050 zero-emis­sions tar­get.

The European Union has long been a strong advo­cate of fight­ing cli­mate change, intro­duc­ing numer­ous poli­cies under the land­mark Green Deal ini­tia­tive.

The bloc’s green agenda, approved in 2020, is to achieve cli­mate neu­tral­ity by 2050 by decar­boniz­ing Europe’s energy and trans­port sys­tems.

Others, how­ever, asserted that with more seats than ever for the far right, which has tra­di­tion­ally opposed cli­mate action, the shift to the right in the European Parliament is unlikely to unravel the bloc’s green poli­cies.

Despite a lot of the atten­tion going to the far-right gains, a vast major­ity of Europeans still voted for par­ties in the polit­i­cal cen­ter,” Vincent Hurkens, the lead on E.U. pol­i­tics at the cli­mate think tank E3G, told The Guardian.

It is up to the cen­ter-right, lib­er­als and social democ­rats [to decide] how much power and influ­ence they allow the far right, and their ideas, to have on the future of the European Green Deal,” Hurkens added.

Nonetheless, some of the E.U.‘s cli­mate change ini­tia­tives have already been tar­geted, with the German Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP par­lia­men­tary group, call­ing the ban on sales of inter­nal com­bus­tion engine cars planned to apply in the bloc in 2035 a mis­take” to be reviewed in upcom­ing days.”

European farm­ers are also affected by mea­sures from the bloc’s green agenda, requir­ing them to direct more resources than ever to green agri­cul­tural prac­tices and new envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

In January, a wave of farmer protests rocked Europe. Demonstrators called on Brussels to ease the admin­is­tra­tive bur­dens and envi­ron­men­tal man­dates for the farm­ing sec­tor, influ­enc­ing European cit­i­zens’ vot­ing for the new European Parliament.

The protests, I think, have been sig­nif­i­cant in mak­ing politi­cians and the gen­eral pub­lic aware of the impor­tance of tak­ing into account the farmer per­spec­tive in set­ting all these reg­u­la­tions,” Trevor Donnellan, head of eco­nom­ics at the Irish Rural Economy Research Center, told Drovers.


However, after the European elec­tions, farm­ers are unlikely to see any imme­di­ate change in their work in the fields.

Farmers already have a lot to do under the E.U.’s green direc­tives, and I do not expect things to change much with the new par­lia­men­tary com­po­si­tion,” Dimitris Mavroidis, the head of the Livanates agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion in cen­tral Greece, told Olive Oil Times.

For instance, pre­ci­sion agri­cul­tural prac­tices such as using only the required amount of water and fer­til­iz­ers in the olive groves will remain in place,” he added. While these mea­sures pos­i­tively impact the envi­ron­ment, they also have an under­ly­ing cost of mea­sur­ing and cal­cu­lat­ing quan­ti­ties. Other require­ments such as the crop rota­tion and the land restora­tion law, on the other hand, will likely be revoked or mod­i­fied.”

Mavroidis also noted that some of the E.U.’s mea­sures in place are still unclear to farm­ers.

Olive farm­ers have to embark on an eco-scheme to get the full Common Agricultural Policy sub­si­dies,” he said.

However, we still don’t know whether some of the work in the fields already done, such as installing new traps for the olive fruit fly, will be eli­gi­ble for a sub­sidy under the new scheme, which would mean that we have ful­filled part of the require­ments for becom­ing greener in our busi­ness,” Mavroidis added.

While the European Parliament has lost its green hue, much will be decided about the bloc’s green tran­si­tion and farm­ing poli­cies when the E.U.’s top jobs are filled.

The German cen­ter-right politi­cian Ursula von der Leyen, who cham­pi­oned the Green Deal, is the favorite for a sec­ond five-year term as the pres­i­dent of the European Commission.


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