N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (VDL) is attacking the political legacy of former Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. Of course, the whole Commission including its President is responsible for the proposal, but under pressure from farmers revolts all over the EU and the upcoming European Parliament elections, VDL wants to take a different course at the last minute. Suddenly, critics within the Commission accuse Timmermans of a policy of imposing, banning and taxing.
Von der Leyen, who mercilessly dealt with the Timmermans method, opened her attack on his approach during a debate in the European Parliament: ‘Farmers need a valuable business case for nature measures. Perhaps we have not made that case convincingly. We need a real stimulus that goes beyond a mere loss of returns’.
The plan to halve pesticide use ‘has become a symbol of polarisation’, she said and announced that the proposal will be withdrawn. The Commission also pulled the plug on an EU requirement for arable farmers. So, farmers do not have to leave part of their land fallow. VDL also announced that she wants to look at the high fertilisers price. And in the new EU climate target for 2040, the Commission wants to spare farmers.
The Commission President started meetings with farmers’ organisations, scientists and the agricultural chain to discuss the future of the agricultural sector. Policies should come more from the bottom up, she said: ‘We need to analyse the situation together, share ideas and develop scenarios for the future. We have to move away from a polarised debate and create trust’.
All in all, it is quite a change of tone! May be with positive effects for the EU farmers. Though VDL’s political opponents call it an ‘election campaign’.