• 22.03.2024.

(Translation of text in image: Member states are toying with our future)

Non-governmental organizations from the #RestoreNature coalition reacted with disbelief to the failure of EU member states to achieve the necessary qualified majority to adopt the long-awaited Nature Restoration Law (NRL) at today’s meeting of EU ambassadors (Coreper). This law – the most significant piece of EU nature legislation since the 1990s – now faces an uncertain future, at odds with the EU’s declared commitment to biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability.

Agreement on the Law was already reached in November and approved by the ambassadors of the member states. The Council vote planned for Monday, 25 March, was supposed to be a mere formality. But despite the broad support of citizens, the European Parliament, scientists, companies and 19 member states, the Nature Restoration Law became hostage to last-minute political maneuvers.

An unexpected and obviously politically motivated change in Hungary’s position with no reaction from Sweden, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy – which continue to either abstain or oppose the law – has now again put the Nature Restoration Law at risk, giving Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban a green light to promote his own agenda and block EU decision-making.

The #RestoreNature coalition, which consists of BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, EEB and WWF EU, stated: “We condemn all member states that do not support the regulation – at best, it suggests a deep misunderstanding of the situation we are in and what it means for citizens’ rights. Allowing Viktor Orban to sabotage the NRL is contrary to science, citizens’ concerns, and the European Parliament’s and corporations’ support for the bill. It is completely incomprehensible and appalling to see the NRL sacrificed on the altar of populist anti-green sentiment, with no rational explanation, while the democratic decision-making process is undermined.”

Non-governmental organizations are calling on the Belgian presidency to urgently work to overcome the impasse and ensure the adoption of the NRL before the summer break. They are also calling on Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, to intervene decisively to save at least one element of the biodiversity strategy and a key pillar of the European Green Plan.

The credibility of the EU is now in question, particularly since it is the critical year of EU Parliament elections. Failure to pass the NRL not only undermines the EU’s commitment to environmental protection – it also threatens the EU’s decision-making processes on other key matters, including the realisation of ambitious climate targets and readiness to deal with upcoming climate-related disasters. Furthermore, it undermines the EU’s ambitions as a global leader, making it unable to fulfill its obligations under the Global Framework for Biodiversity agreed in 2022.

Translated by: Maša Dvornik