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European election year means close scrutiny of EU policy.

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One of the flagship policies of the current Commission is the Green Deal.  The European Green Deal is a package of policy initiatives, which aims to set the EU on the path to a green transition, with the ultimate goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

According to the EU, it supports the transformation of the EU into a fair and prosperous society with a modern and competitive economy.

Five years ago, the Green Deal was partly the result of a massive mobilisation of young Europeans in favour of the climate (and of votes in favour of ecologist parties).

To some it was an unprecedented project to transform the continent and restore its economic and geopolitical place in globalisation.

It was supposed to translate into a very dense set of regulations.

The aim was for the EU to become the pioneers of the low-carbon economy and the champions of environmental, social and digital standards.

Sebastien Treyer is from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), an independent think tank that seeks to facilitate the transition towards sustainable development.

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He says that, in the run-up to the June 2024 elections, Europe and its project for the future, including the Green Deal,  are likely to be the focus of unprecedented media and public attention.

He said, “Perhaps the EU Green Deal can be presented to the wider public as an emblem of the coordination and leverage that European cooperation can deliver.”

“The results and prospects of the Green Deal could either be used as a partisan tool, or as a basis for public understanding of the need to continue building Europe.”

But the question is also being asked:  Is the Green Deal what the public actually want?

A study commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) predicts that the results of the Euro elections this Spring could have significant consequences for the EU’s policy agenda and direction of future legislation - including the European Green Deal. 

Authored by political scientists and pollsters, Simon Hix and Dr. Kevin Cunningham, the study, “A Sharp Right Turn,A forecast for the 2024 Euro elections”, predicts a surge of popularity among anti-European, populist, right-wing parties, and a considerable decrease of support for mainstream parties.

The “biggest implications” of this, it says, are likely to concern environmental policy.

In the current parliament, a centre-left coalition (of S&D, RE, G/EFA, and The Left) have tended to win on environmental policy issues, but many of these votes have been won by very small margins. With a significant shift to the right, it is likely that an ‘anti-climate policy action’ coalition will dominate beyond June 2024.

This would significantly undermine the EU’s Green Deal framework and the adoption and enforcement of common policies to meet the EU’s net zero targets.

Just recently, Europe has witnessed assorted and violent large scale protests by farmers against EU environmental policy, including the Green Deal. The farming community claims to enjoy widespread pubic support in its concerns.

ECR Group co leader Nicola Procaccini is among those who has expressed “deep frustration” over the impact of the Commissions Green Deal policies on farmers, breeders and fishermen.
 
The MEP has denounced the Commission for “burdening farmers relentlessly with Green Deal legislation that not only fails to assist farmers but also makes their work more difficult, reduces their income, and negatively affects their livelihoods.”
 
"On average every four months it has thrown a law in our faces against farmers, breeders and fishermen", Procaccini said.
 
The deputy says the EU’s “Farm to Fork” policy, for example, has “crushed farmers” while the packaging regulation has “banned packages that guarantee freshness for fruit and vegetables.”
 
The Nature Restoration Law “decided that human beings harm the planet, so we must abandon the cultivated fields, remove the banks from the rivers and exhume the swamps.”
 
“Thank goodness,” adds the MEP “that that half-assed CAP has passed, because if it had gone the way Greta Thunberg and the armchair environmentalists wanted it would have been even worse than it is.”

It is against this backdrop that the EU’s Green Deal is coming under increasing pressure.

The EU is now facing rising demands from member states to change its approach to climate change in the wake of the growing farmer protests.

Alexandr Vondra - a member of the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists Group - described the EU environmental targets as "unrealistic ambitions", according to the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, the protests are continuing.

Spain and Bulgaria recently again saw hundreds of their farmers take to the streets - blocking roads and causing severe disruption to motorists.

Like farmers elsewhere, they demand more flexibility from the EU, tighter controls on the produce of non-EU countries and more help from their government.

Greek farmers have also been discussing the possibility of blocking key roads in order to try and force the government to agree to their demands.

The European Green Deal is the EU’s strategy for reaching climate goals and making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The package includes initiatives covering the climate, the environment, energy, transport, industry, agriculture and sustainable finance

The aim is to make the EU's climate, energy, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

An EC spokesman said, “The European Green Deal is our lifeline out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“One third of the €1.8 trillion investments from the NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan and the EU’s seven-year budget will finance the European Green Deal.

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