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Austria’s farming, economy ministers urge von der Leyen to delay EU anti-deforestation law

Austria’s agriculture and economy ministers have urged European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to postpone the implementation of the new EU anti-deforestation regulation

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2024

They attributed these difficulties to “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles” that EU countries would face if the rules were enforced without classifying countries or regions into three different categories (high, standard and low) based on the risk of deforestation.
They attributed these difficulties to “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles” that EU countries would face if the rules were enforced without classifying countries or regions into three different categories (high, standard and low) based on the risk of deforestation.

by Sofia Sanchez Manzanaro

Austria’s agriculture and economy ministers have urged European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to postpone the implementation of the new EU anti-deforestation regulation (EUDR), scheduled for January 2025, according to a letter seen by Euractiv.

The letter, dated 27 April, is addressed to von der Leyen and EU Commissioners Maros Sefcovic, Janusz Wojciechowski, and Virginijus Sinkevicius, and has been endorsed by Austria’s minister of agriculture, Norbert Totschnig, and economy minister Martin Kocher.

The Austrian officials highlighted that the looming implementation of the EUDR presents “insurmountable challenges” for the national authorities involved and affected businesses.

They attributed these difficulties to “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles” that EU countries would face if the rules were enforced without classifying countries or regions into three different categories (high, standard and low) based on the risk of deforestation.

Under the new rules, shipments coming from higher-risk areas will be subject to stricter checks, while requirements for buyers sourcing products from low-risk regions will be simplified.

However, as they noted, in 2025 all countries — including EU member states — would fall under the standard risk category since the Commission has hinted at postponing the initial classification until next year.

The Austrian representatives wrote: “The lack of classification by the EC [European Commission] for low-risk countries means disproportionately higher control efforts and increased due diligence obligations for all market participants.”

While acknowledging the important goal of the EU anti-deforestation regulation in curbing global deforestation, the letter stressed the importance of targeting areas where these practices occur on a large scale.

“Large-scale deforestation occurs in countries outside the EU, while forest areas in the EU have been increasing for decades,” reads the letter. “In Austria, for example, there has been an increase of 330,000 hectares in the last 60 years to now approximately four million hectares,” it continues.

The politicians underscored that their proposal received backing from 22 EU countries, including Finland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden, during a Council meeting last month.

EU ministers join calls

Several farming ministers, including representatives from Germany and Latvia, echoed the calls during Monday’s (29 April) meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries (AGRIFISH) Council.

“The Federal Republic of Germany is not a high-risk country in terms of deforestation, quite the opposite,” Germany’s agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir told reporters.

“And that’s not just anyone saying that, but someone known to be a member of the Green party,“ he added.

The president of the EU AGRIFISH Council, Belgian minister David Clarinval, told Euractiv that over a dozen member states had voiced support for delaying the implementation of the EUDR.

Meanwhile, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski stated that he would advocate for postponing the implementation of the rules for an additional year within the Commission.

“I presented into the internal work of the Commission support for this proposal, and I think it is needed,“ Wojciechowski told Euractiv.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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