Farmers are protesting to obtain the rejection of the draft Nature Restoration Law, as a vote will take place on 12 July on the bill at the European Parliament. EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND


Belgian PM ‘using EU presidency to try to kill Nature Restoration Law’

Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister leading his country’s six-month EU presidency, is actively campaigning to torpedo the bloc’s nature restoration legislation, according to reports citing European "insiders"


Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister leading his country’s six-month EU presidency, is actively campaigning to torpedo the bloc’s nature restoration legislation, according to reports citing European “insiders”.

Most EU presidencies work hard to conclude as many agreements as possible – and then boast about such if successful. Belgium appears to be taking a unique approach.

The country stands accused of deliberately sabotaging approved “green” laws to avoid alienating elements of the domestic electorate prior to national voting on June 9, rather than acting as an honest and neutral EU-wide broker.

Despite the final approval of the Nature Restoration Law being a formality in principle, De Croo and his MPs are secretly trying to influence European Member States to withdraw their support for the legislation, Belgian newspaper De Standaard claimed on March 18.

The outlet said: “Numerous sources from several Member States, administrations and NGOs indicate that De Croo and his Cabinet have been actively lobbying certain European capitals … to withdraw their support for the law.

“Everyone who works on the environment within the Council knows what the Belgian Prime Minister’s Cabinet is doing,” a senior European “source” was quoted as saying by De Standaard.

The newspaper added that several embassies to the EU confirmed the rumours but are reluctant to be publicly named due to the “extreme political sensitivity” surrounding the issue.

While it is notoriously difficult to corroborate stories where “sources” say certain things, another Belgian outlet, Knack, alleged De Croo’s Cabinet reached out to the Free Democratic Party (FDP), part of the German Government’s Liberal coalition, to explore the potential of a shift in Berlin’s voting stance over the Nature Restoration Law’s implementation.

Both De Standaard and Knack are on the political Green and Left sides of the Belgian political media spectrum.

Despite the European Parliament having given its final approval on an albeit watered-down version of the green law, European Member States still have to cast their votes on its actual implementation.

With MEPs from the European People’s Party and European Conservatives and Reformists Group already opposed to the Nature Restoration Law, De Croo has allies.

The legislation must now be approved by the Council by a qualified majority, so 15 Member States states, representing at least 65 per cent of Europeans, have to give their consent.

Currently, it appears there are 20 EU countries in favour, representing 66.13 per cent of European citizens. Still, as De Standaard noted, such a slim majority could easily be reversed.

If one country changes its mind regarding how it votes – to the “no” side – the law would be dead in the water. Media speculates that countries such as Germany, Hungary and Romania are possible turncoats.

Farmers in both Germany and Romania are vehemently against the European legislation.

In June 2023, De Croo loudly proclaimed the EU green policy, if adopted, would represent too big a burden for European industries and economies.

His Government coalition partners in the Green party are not amused by suggestions the Prime Minister and his cohorts are trying to influence proceedings secretively.

“This would signify a failure of the Belgian presidency,” Green Party chairman Jeremie Vaneeckhout told De Standaard.

“If this is true, De Croo is abusing his position as temporary EU President. That would be unprecedented.

“It would go against the will of his coalition partners. I expect honesty from our Prime Minister, not backroom politics,” Vaneeckhout stated.

Green Federal Minister of Climate and Environment Zakia Khattabi added: “When I heard the stories of undue influence, I addressed the Prime Minister about it.

“He denies it. Therefore, I assume that our country will continue to play the role of an honest negotiator as the EU Council President.”

De Croo’s spokesperson officially denied the media reports of any clandestine efforts regarding the Nature Restoration Law’s passage.

The PM’s spokesperson stated that all communications have taken place within what were termed the realms of standard diplomatic procedures.

“We gave our arguments as to why it is difficult for us; the legal uncertainty this legislation threatens to create,” the spokesperson said.

“But it is not for us to ask countries to change their position.”