EU Friday – 29 March

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


More electric cars and more technology to facilitate the green and digital transition means more raw materials. In the European Commission’s vocabulary, this all equals more Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with third countries. So far, the EU has signed a dozen MoUs, and more are about to come with the next third country lined up being Australia. Signing MoUs is the Commission’s MO to secure strategic partnerships on critical raw materials needed to turn Europe into a climate neutral continent by 2050, through more solar panels and windmills, electric cars and trucks. The MoUs are a political commitment of no binding legal nature, accompanied by a roadmap developed in cooperation between the two parties. In practice this means little or no access to relevant documents to monitor how concrete action plans are developed, and whether they are in accordance with European ‘values’. Strategic partnerships in this form are mostly a quick and dirty way to ensure access to the essential raw materials and reduce the EU’s dependence on individual major suppliers of raw materials.


While some of the flagship initiatives of the EU’s Green Deal such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation that were concluded in the last weeks are still at risk because they will only see their final adoption after the elections, Member States are now pushing back against existing environmental legislation as well. At the Agriculture Council meeting on 26 March, six countries led by Austria called for a targeted revision of the Regulation on Deforestation-free products, asking to delay the implementation of the text and exempt small-scale farmers from applying the law. This was slammed by both Austria’s own Minister for Environment and the organic agriculture sector. The Nature Restoration Law, which had received conditional support from a qualified majority of Member State ambassadors, is now on hold after Hungary reversed its position on 21 March. Another telling illustration of the current Green Deal pushback is the outcome of Monday’s meeting of environmental ministers, during which half of the countries declined to take a hard position on their ability to reach the 2040 climate target of a 90%-reduction of carbon emissions. Three countries voiced clear opposition, unsurprisingly referring to “administrative burden”.


Ahead of the Parliament elections but more importantly in view of the new Commission mandate, a group of NGOs working on sustainable finance this week presented a “vision for financing the transition to sustainability”. While the second half of the decade of sustainable finance (as a football-loving MEP likes to call it) undoubtedly will be more focused on implementation and tweaking existing rules rather than on brand-lew legislation, there is clearly still a lot of legislative work to be done at the EU level to meet the 2030 objectives. The report by E3G, ShareAction and WWF looks at both the private and public sector, which is very timely as the latter is a key topic for European leaders when they discuss the future of the Capital Markets Union at a special summit on 18 and 19 April. One MEP who will certainly welcome suggestions for the next mandate is sustainable frontrunner MEP Sirpa Piëtikainen, who will reflect on the NGO recommendations in a public webinar on 12 April.