Belgium takes vote on Nature Restoration Law off agenda

Europe's environment ministers will not vote on the Nature Restoration Law on Monday after all. The vote will be postponed because the Belgian presidency believes there is no majority, Belga learned from a reliable source on Friday.

The law, which aims to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe, needs a qualified majority of at least 15 of the 27 member states to be approved. The European Parliament already approved the law last month, but it now appears to be stumbling over the final hurdle: the vote in the Council.

As temporary president of the Council, Belgium must try to act as an honest broker to get the legislation passed. As things stand, the law will fall just short of a qualified majority. Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Finland and Sweden have said they will abstain or vote against.

This would narrowly miss the threshold of votes in favour from countries representing 65 per cent or more of the EU population. If one of the opposing or abstaining countries still decides to vote in favour, the law will be adopted. This includes Belgium, which is abstaining due to regional divisions.

Tortuous path

According to a diplomatic source, the Belgian presidency will put the dossier back on the table "in due course", but when exactly is not clear.

The nature conservation law is part of the Green Deal, a package of measures aimed at making the European economy climate-neutral. EU sources have pointed out that without the farmers' protests over the past few months, the tortuous path the law now has to take "would have looked completely different".

When asked for a reaction, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that the EU was facing a competitive handicap but that the Green Deal should not be used as a scapegoat. The law is there to set the framework, she said.

Law in hands of Orbán

The European Greens are unhappy with the Council's handling of the law. The approval should have been a formality, but because the Dutch government will vote against it "following pressure from the right-wing parties", its fate has been put "in the hands of Hungary's unreliable prime minister Viktor Orbán", the party said in a press release.

“This is how the EU would look like with radical right in power," said European Greens MEP Bas Eickhout. "There has been no change in the data or the research underpinning the Nature Restoration Law since the Council and Parliament agreed. On the contrary: the warnings get more urgent and severe.”



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