Late German upset threatens to sink EU nature law, sources say

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 7:22 AM

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s flagship policy to restore damaged environments is hanging in the balance after objections inside Germany’s coalition government have threatened to sink the law at the last minute, EU officials said on Tuesday.

The EU nature restoration law has faced political backlash from some governments and lawmakers concerned it would impose burdensome rules on farmers, who have staged months of protests across Europe over complaints including EU regulations.

EU countries were due to adopt a provisional deal on the law on Monday, allowing the law to enter into force. But Germany’s Free Democrats (FDP), junior partner in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition, has signalled it cannot support the law, three EU officials told Reuters.

Without Germany’s backing, the policy would struggle to win approval from the reinforced majority of EU countries it needs to pass. Countries including Italy and Sweden have opposed the law, while Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands are set to abstain, EU officials said.

This would be the latest example of bickering within the awkward three-way coalition, comprising Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and pro-business FDP, hampering EU policy plans. The FDP position was previously reported by Table Media.

The FDP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Germany’s environment ministry said Germany had initially supported the deal on the nature law, agreed between EU countries and lawmakers last year – which was supposed to be final.

“This position of the federal government remains unchanged to this day and confirms the outcome of the negotiations between the EU institutions,” the spokesperson said.

The EU Parliament approved the final law last month.

European governments are scrambling to respond to months of protests by farmers, over issues including cheap imported food and green policies.

In response, the EU has already weakened some green measures – despite the EU’s own environment agency warning that more, not fewer, climate-protecting policies are needed to help farmers adapt to worsening extreme weather.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; additional reporting by Alexander Ratz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)