Timmermans cautions against relaxing Green deal goals for sake of food security
Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans stood up for the Green Deal objectives in the EU’s farming policy despite the calls of prioritising food security aspects in the wake of supply disruptions caused by the Ukraine war.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put the spotlight again on food security, as the ongoing war involves two agricultural powerhouses providing over a third of the world’s wheat and barley, 17% of corn and over 50% of sunflower oil and seeds.
A mention of food security is expected to be included in the conclusions of the informal European Council to be held this week (10-11 March) in Versailles.
“We will improve our food security by reducing our dependencies on imported agricultural products and inputs,” reads the draft text, seen by EURACTIV, currently on the table of the EU ambassadors in Brussels.
A side debate is taking hold on whether the goals of the main Commission’s sustainable food policies, the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity strategy, might hamper agricultural productivity and, therefore, Europe’s food security.
Speaking after a special meeting with the EU-27 agriculture ministers last week (2 March), the agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski conceded that the EU “need[s] to keep a close eye on the objectives of these policies in the context of food security”.
However, Timmermans, the commissioner in charge of delivering the ambitious Green Deal, dismissed any idea of relaxing sustainability goals in the EU’s food policy, speaking before lawmakers in the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) on Monday (7 March).
“Please, don’t believe in the illusion that […] you would help food production by making it less sustainable, by not opting for Farm to Fork strategy, by not making it more resilient in terms of the natural environment and the food production,” he warned.
Timmermans referred to the goal of reducing fertiliser use included in the Farm to Fork, which could come in handy when coping with the disruption caused by the ban on importing potash from Belarus, an important fertiliser that is largely deficient in Europe.
“So, here I would argue that Farm to Fork is part of the answer and not part of the problem,” he continued.
Environmental organisations praised the strenuous defence of the Green Deal and the Greens in the European Parliament.
“Keeping those targets is the only responsible thing to do,” said Green MEP Tilly Metz, who added that both the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies allow Europe to be more independent in terms of food security.
But in an interview with EURACTIV, Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of the EU farmers’ association (COPA-COGECA), said that the Green Deal does not need radical changes but radical additions instead.
“We have no problem with the Green Deal as such, but we need to have the assistance of the Union to make this happen,” he said.
According to him, the Ukraine crisis offers the possibility to enhance the Green Deal package to enable farmers to maintain supplies to the market in both quantity and quality.
“An additional layer needs to be there, and, let me be very blunt, the commission has failed to deliver it,” he said.
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