ENVI Committee Votes Down Nature Restoration Law Report – what happened and what’s next?

aerial view of harvest fields with tractor in Poland. Photo credit istock photos

Today, the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) finished voting on amendments to the Nature Restoration Law. No majority was found for the law as amended, as the vote was split 44-44. This means that the ENVI Committee will first table a proposal to reject the law including amendments for the full parliamentary meeting upcoming in Strasbourg.

This will be the first item tabled at the full vote of the entire Parliament  – plenary. The Parliament as a whole will vote and adopt a position on this. If the NRL survives this vote, more amendments will be tabled, a final established position adopted, and negotiations will then begin with the Council. 

This plenary vote will happen in Strasbourg on the week beginning 10th July, most likely between 11th and 13th.

So while, on the one hand, “six months of work has been thrown out with this vote” as Left group MEP and shadow rapporteur on the NRL Mick Wallace said after the vote, the Ireland south-east MEP added “there is still a long way to go. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that the Parliament can approve a position in the plenary so that we can start negotiations with the Council.  I still have hope that we can eventually pass this desperately needed legislation.” 

Once any version of the NRL is approved at plenary, then negotiations begin with the Council of Ministers. Indeed, many of the amendments approved or rejected may appear in some form at plenary.

Also, and importantly, from the perspective of having an NRL come into law, the strength of what emerges from the Parliament is not as important as the fact that something emerges and proceeds to trilogue. This is because the Council already has a general position adopted and typically has the upper hand in negotiations with the Parliament, in the final stages of most significant votes.   

Judging by the voting transcript, initial indications are that a large number of the 22 EPP MEPs were substituted out from the vote in ENVI today – as happened previously. However MEPs subbed in were not even the established subs on the ENVI Committee –  MEPs who have been at least following the file in this Committee.  

Instead party loyalists such as  Berendsen, Dorfmann, Dupont, Skyttedal, Caspary, Tomc, Bogovic, Schmiedtbauer, Vandenkendelaere, and Kalinowski  were brought into this Committee to vote  against the NRl either today or on the 15th. None of these ten are listed on the EPP groups’ own website as ENVI subs. 

Read/download  – 2023-06-15 and 2023-06-27 votes and roll-call votes for NRL

Today, saw Bogovic, Dorfmann, Dupont, Skyttedal, Tomc, Schmiedtbauer and Kalinowski vote, while Caspary, Berendsen and Vandenkendelaere also came in at times for some votes on the 15th. 

This made the vote even more certain and ensured the group’s members voted in alignment. It has been reported that punishment for going against the whip were not just the usual threats of reduced access and speaking rights, but included full expulsion from the group.

What’s next?

For plenary the vote and positions are still too close to call. There is no opportunity to bring in substitutes – it is a full vote of the entire parliament. White it’s unusual for legislation rejected by Committees to progress past plenary, this is an unusual, very high profile file. 

The situation is further complicated by the fact that last week national environment ministers voted at Council by a qualified majority (of 20 member states and 66.13% of the overall population of the EU) to adopt a general position on the NRL.

20 member state Ministers voting for NRL last week could have as much influence on MEPs as Committees in the Parliament, especially for MEPs thinking of returning home after a stint in the European Parliament: with 2024 elections upcoming next summer, the final months of the Parliament in this mandate (legislative period) are in essence campaigning time, as there is no time for new legislation.

That said, the Renew group tend to have more environmentally progressive MEPs in ENVI than in Plenary. Plenary is usually more conservative than ENVI overall, but this was no ordinary ENVI committee, with 7 EPP loyalists brought in to impact the vote. 

All eyes on Strasbourg for 11-13th July, for what will be one of the final significant acts in the European Parliament before the summer break and indeed before the 2024 elections.


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