Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said it was time to “hit the pause button” on the EU’s nature restoration plan since the country’s two regions seem to be unable to find common ground on the issue, an occurrence all too common in the small Western European nation, Politico reported on Thursday, May 25th.
The aim of the EU’s proposed Nature Restoration Regulation is to restore at least 20% of the bloc’s “degraded ecosystems” by 2030, and all such areas by 2050. This ambitious plan may appeal to a large segment of the population, but there’s one group who see it only as a looming disaster: the farmers.
In particular, farmers constitute a powerful electorate in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium, where the conservative government—preparing for elections next year—does everything to shield their interests from the harmful effects of Brussels’ overregulation.
“The goals are very ambitious, and are imposed from higher up without taking into account local realities,” said Flemish Agriculture Minister Jo Brouns. “In Flanders or the Netherlands, with the high population density and limited space, you can’t do as much as in the Nordics or Eastern Europe.”
Indeed, the problem seems eerily similar to what Dutch farmers have been struggling with for years. In the Netherlands, the dispute started four years ago with crushing new restrictions on nitrogen emissions. Now, it has reached the point when the government is threatening to expropriate some 3,000 farms if the owners won’t sell them ‘voluntarily’—all for the sake of reducing pollution and restoring nature.
Flemish farmers do not want to let things get anywhere close to the Dutch level. Earlier this year, they were able to force the Flemish government to backpedal on a similar bill to mandate nitrogen cuts.