The Belgium Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, has chosen to back food industrialists instead of nature by calling for a ‘PAUSE’ to the Nature Restoration Law. To mark his words Ocean Rebels picketed the EU Parliament wearing masks and carrying banners.

It seems like De Croo has been hooked by his Flanders cohort who are taking advice from industrial agriculture and fishing. This goes against his own Climate Ministers, Zakia Khattabi, advice to back the law. In a speech full of industrial carrots De Croo revealed he’s only willing to consider technological solutions to climate change, regulating on behalf of nature isn’t in his purview. This has split the Federal Government in Belgium on familiar lines, and threatens to derail the Nature Restoration Law with Belgium taking over the presidency of the EU in January 2024.

Alexander de croo is hooked by the food industry

What is the Nature Restoration Law?
In June last year the European Commission tabled the new Nature Restoration Law. This law, for the first time, introduces legally-binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems and reverse biodiversity loss. The new law sets a target to all Member States to restore 20% of the EU’s land and seas by 2030.

Yesterday marked the first vote on the Nature Restoration Law in the EU Parliament.

The vote on the NRL was very tight.

The amendment to reject the NRL entirely was supported by the Right (EPP), the far-right (ID/ECR) and some Renew members.

But thanks to an intervention by the liberal MEP Frédérique Ries it was saved from rejection – 44 in favour and 44 against.

Ries is part of the Renew Party and is from the Belgium French-speaking Mouvement Réformateur (MR) Party, which is becoming ever more right. Ries is known in the EU bubble for her environmental stance against plastic and plastic pollution. Right now, she is the rapporteur (lead MEP) on the proposal for an EU Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation. At the national level, Ries’s party has decided to be against the NRL and Ries was instructed to use her vote against the proposal, or be excluded from the MR Party.

Instead of confronting this directly Ries decided to be absent from the NRL vote. This made her party (the MR) very angry – because, thanks to her decision, the NRL proposal was not rejected.

Looks like Belgium is beginning to shape the future of the NRL and, with the first vote over and a whole list of amendments to be considered, it’s time to turn up the heat.

MEPs can’t be allowed to sideline nature in favour of business-as-usual. It’s time for the EU to think creatively about its citizens concern for jobs and the need to move away from extractive industries like fishing. The Nature Restoration Law (NRL) might be the best vehicle to do this. It offers the chance to put communities at the top of the agenda by linking them to a meaningful law (NRL). What if coastal fishing communities are test beds for basic income? And this basic income is the chance for locals to care for their local environment, care for the place they live?

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
Our interventions depend on your support.

Ocean Rebellion demands the EU Parliament and Council support the NATURE RESTORATION LAW in full, including the proposal to make Member States legally responsible for restoring nature, giving EU citizens the right to sue Member States for failing to comply. 

Ocean Rebellion also demands the EU Parliament includes fishing as a key contributor to ocean degradation within the NRL, highlighting this inclusion by banning bottom trawling in all EU waters, and makes a commitment to reduce fishing by 80%, achieved by ending industrial fishing and empowering coastal communities by promoting low-impact, labour intensive traditional fishing and incentivised Ocean care. 

EU Member States must show courage to face down the rich lobbyists, create sustainable jobs and restore the dying Ocean. 

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