June 21. 2024. 7:39

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MEPs agree EU pesticide reduction plan votes, pushing final deal after 2023

European lawmakers have finally agreed on a timeline to vote on their position on the EU’s plan to slash pesticide use, but this leaves a final deal on the file unlikely in 2023, as confirmed by a leaked draft of the Belgian presidency priorities.

The contentious but ambitious sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR) proposal aims to slash the use and risk of pesticides in half by 2030, as set out in the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy.

But progress on the file has not been smooth-running, with EU agriculture ministers demanding more information before proceeding, effectively stalling negotiations.

Now, after weeks of terse exchanges between the European Parliament’s agriculture and environment committees, who share competence on parts of the file, a deal was finally struck on Tuesday (15 March).

“It is true that there is an agreement on the schedule,” the office of Green MEP Sarah Wiener, who is rapporteur on the file for the environment committee, confirmed to EURACTIV.

Per the agreement, the file will now be voted on by the Parliament’s agriculture committee in July and by their counterparts in the environment committee in September.

A final plenary vote is then indicatively tabled in the first October session in Strasbourg, scheduled for 2 to 5 October.

However, tensions remain high between the two Parliament committees, which maintain very different approaches.

As outlined in its draft report, the environment committee is pushing for more ambitious targets and timelines for EU-wide pesticide cuts, including an 80% reduction for the most hazardous pesticides compared to 50% in the Commission’s proposal.

Meanwhile, the Parliament’s agriculture committee takes a generally more conservative approach, warning that pesticide reductions must be balanced with food security concerns.

Moreover, Parliament remains divided along party lines, with the centre-right EPP waging a sustained campaign against the SUR proposal because it imperils EU food security – a point refuted by their Green counterparts, who argue that it is impossible to ensure long-term food security without a drastic reduction in the use and risk of pesticides.

LEAK: European Parliament to push for 80% pesticides reduction target

The Member of the European Parliament leading the revision of the EU’s pesticide framework is pushing for more ambition both in targets and timelines for EU-wide pesticide cuts, according to a draft report seen by EURACTIV.

Belgian Presidency expects to tackle SUR

To seal a final compromise deal, the European Parliament will have to negotiate with EU ministers, who have already been accused of dragging their feet on the file after requesting a further impact assessment.

This delay and the Parliament’s agreed timeline will likely see discussions between EU lawmakers pushed into 2024.

This would mean a deal would not be sealed within this Commission’s mandate in October 2024 – a timeline supported by a leaked draft of the Belgian presidency’s priorities.

Seen by EURACTIV, the draft suggests the Belgians, who will take the reins of the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2024, are gearing up for debates on the SUR well into their presidency.

The SUR is listed under the ‘Commission work programme and other important files’ section of the Belgian presidency’s expected environment and agricultural priorities.

A Parliament source previously explained to EURACTIV that there is an ‘unofficial’ cut-off point for inter-institutional talks around February 2024, meaning that negotiations cannot continue on files beyond this point.