The continent’s largest political group has backed farmers who reject greener farming under the banner of the Green Deal. If the pressure to protect the environment does not stop, there is a risk, according to the people, of a loss of competitiveness, people leaving agriculture and food shortages in Europe. A year before the new European elections, this started the fight for the votes of people who are afraid of the impact of green politics on their livelihoods.
“We reject the proposal on the sustainable use of pesticides. The chosen goal is not feasible and the proposal does not offer viable alternatives to farmers,” reads a statement adopted in early May in Munich at a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP). It is the strongest faction in the European Parliament and is made up of centre-right parties from EU countries and other European states. Among the Czech political entities, members are KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and the STAN movement.
With the statement, the European people have defined themselves against the package known as Fit for 55. It contains proposals for a radical reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade and is a key step towards fulfilling the Green Deal. In particular, the People’s Party rejects a plan to halve pesticides in agriculture, as well as a demand to return a tenth of cultivated land to the wild.
“In a number of European Union countries, the introduction of already existing measures has caused a bureaucratic nightmare for farmers and threatened economic life in the countryside,” reads the text, signed by most of the 43 member parties, including the Czech People’s Party.
On the part of the main MEP group, this is the most significant opposition to the Green Deal in recent years. So far, they have supported the green proposals put forward by the European Commission, also led by Ursula von der Leyen. The Green Deal is the common goal of the EU countries to become climate neutral by 2050, i.e. to emit only a minimal amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The rest would be absorbed, for example, by forests or technologies to capture them.
So far, the European people have criticized individual parts of the proposals and tried to modify them, as in the case of the fight for cars with internal combustion engines after 2035. They have not yet rejected the whole proposal at its inception. The European Parliament’s committees have now begun to discuss measures regarding pesticides and the restoration of free landscapes.
“The statement is a response to strong pressure from the farming community,” said MEP Michaela Šojdrová from KDU-ČSL, who supports the text. “We want farmers to produce quality, cheap food, and at the same time we are burdening them with more and more regulation. It is becoming unbearable for them and it is right that the European people are fighting for them,” she added.
With European elections coming up next June, criticism of the Green Agenda can be expected to grow in the coming months. In a number of countries, against the background of expensive energy and high inflation, people have been afraid to bet on often more expensive “clean” technologies.
For example, right-wing parties from Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark are preparing a coordinated action against the plan to limit pesticides. In Belgium, the right has the Greens as its partners in the government coalition, in the Netherlands, the cabinet has been under pressure since March, when the regional elections were overwhelmingly won by the farmers’ party fighting precisely against the reduction of emissions in agriculture.
In the Czech Republic, the opposition leader, ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš from the ANO movement took up the topic. And this despite the fact that his prime minister’s signature stood behind the EU countries’ decision to reduce emissions. The proposals, against which farmers and politicians are now fighting, “only” develop the agreement on the Green Deal from 2019.
At the conference of nationalist parties in Budapest last week, Babiš said that the European Union is hostage to “green madness” that will “destroy European industry and people’s lives”. He summed up the effort to reduce emissions as “green suicide”.
Most of the dozen or so proposals of the key Fit for 55 package have already been approved by the union. But many contain revision clauses, which will make it possible to change the specific path to the destination on the fly.
This is also the case with the hotly debated move away from cars with internal combustion engines. In 2026, the EU states are to evaluate whether the bet on the exclusive production of electric vehicles after 2035 is economically feasible and socially sustainable. If they turn out not to, the uptake of electromobility may slow down.
“And these roads will be played for now. They will also be a topic for the next election period of the European Parliament, however the main goal – to reduce emissions – will not contradict,” says ANO MEP Ondřej Kovařík. His party is a member of the Renewal of Europe faction in the European Parliament, bringing together liberal political groups.
To what extent ANO chose criticism of the Green Deal as a topic for the European campaign, the MEP did not want to comment, because the debate about it “has not yet taken place”. “But I imagine people will be asking about it. It’s been the focus of our work for the last couple of years.”
He considers Babiš’s words about “green suicide” too expressive and would not use them. “However, they reflect people’s real concerns. If the path to lower emissions is set up incorrectly, it can be truly liquidating for cement factories, glass factories and other industries,” Kovařík added.
What does the Green Deal mean?
It is a commitment that the European Union will become climate neutral by 2050. Only a minimal amount of greenhouse gases would thus be emitted on its territory. The rest would be absorbed, for example, by forests or technologies to capture them. Climate neutrality does not have to be achieved by all states, it is an average goal for the entire Union. Some countries, such as Germany, want to significantly reduce emissions, so others, such as the Czech Republic, could still produce some. The plan was supported by the EU states in December 2019, the then Prime Minister Andrej Babiš from ANO signed the plan on behalf of the Czech Republic. The reason for these efforts are the conclusions of thousands of scientists, according to which this is the only way to prevent catastrophic warming of the planet.
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