Greta Thunberg was photographed at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last Wednesday smiling broadly while flipping a double-bird – apparently to the opponents of heavily contested new EU environmental legislation known as the ‘Nature Restoration Law’. According to the German news site Merkur.de, it was a “winner’s gesture” – if not the most sporting one – because at its Wednesday session, the parliament approved the legislation, with some amendments, by the notably slim margin of 336-300. A prior motion to reject the proposal outright was defeated by the even slimmer margin of 324-312.
The proposed Nature Restoration Law, one of the main components of the European Commission’s ‘Green Deal’, would require 20% of allegedly degraded EU land and sea to be ‘restored’ by 2030. (See, for instance, the factsheet on the law here.) A modified version of the proposal, which was already rejected in the parliament’s Environment Committee, would have raised this figure even to 30%.
Fearing the impact of such ‘restoration’ on the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen, European agricultural and fishery groups have vigorously opposed the proposal, and it was also rejected by both the parliament’s agricultural and fisheries committees.
The largest group in the European Parliament, the ‘conservative’ European People’s Party (EPP), likewise opposed the legislation. Ironically, the largest national delegation within the EPP group is comprised of the German Christian Democrats of none other than European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Nonetheless, the legislation only managed to escape outright rejection in the full parliament thanks to 15 EPP members breaking ranks and voting with the Greens, the Social Democrats and the Left group. (See roll-call here, p. 52.)
It should be noted that, despite the schadenfreude evident in Greta Thunberg’s ‘winner’s gesture’, the Nature Restoration Law has not now cleared parliament.
Rather, the European Parliament’s approval of the legislation means that the text will now be the subject of so-called ‘trilogue’ negotiations involving representatives of the three main EU institutions: the Commission, the Parliament and the Council (in which EU member states are directly represented). The final text will then be resubmitted to the Parliament at some future date.