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Macron’s Calls for ‘Regulatory Pause’ in EU Environmental Laws Wink at Conservatives

It’s been months that EU centre-right lawmakers have been championing a backlash against environmental regulation, arguing it’s at odds with other — more strategic — EU objectives.

Now, a senior voice is adding to the chorus of those asking for a freeze. 

During a speech on how to revive the French industry on Thursday at the Elysée, President Emmanuel Macron called for “a European regulatory break.” 

“We have already passed lots of environmental regulations at European level, more than other countries,” he said. “Now we should be implementing them, not making new changes in the rules or we are going to loose all our [industrial] players.”

He insisted that, when it comes to the regulatory side, the EU is “ahead of the Americans, the Chinese and of any other power in the world.”

“We must not make new changes to the rules,” he added, warning that an unstable regulatory environment would only cause harm to investments. 

Macron’s calls for putting a break on a new stream of laws aiming at reversing environmental damage look oddly in line with the arguments that emerged at last week’s gathering of the European People’s Party (EPP),, where senior MEPs gathered in Munich took a hard stance against new rules on pesticides and nature restoration. Moving ahead with them, they claimed, meant endangering the EU’s long-term food security.

In an interview with POLITICO, German MEP Christian Ehler, who leads the Parliament’s work on the Net-Zero Industry Act, which aims at boosting the bloc’s manufacturing capacity of clean energy technologies, repeatedly cautioned against a fast-tracked phaseout of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) — harmful chemicals that linger in the environment. He was clear that, with no easy way to replace them, a speedy ban could end up delaying the continent’s green industry ambitions. 

That’s a position that EPP’s main political rivals — the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) — slam as disingenuous. 

“That being pro-industry or pro-farmers means that you cannot protect climate, environment and biodiversity at the same time [is] a myth,” said Mohammed Chahim, S&D vice chair. He stressed that hitting pause on environmental laws until next years’ elections would only result in a “year thrown away” in the fight against climate change. 

Elysée’s officials were quick to make clear that Macron was not attacking any existing or upcoming EU environmental text. “He never talked about a moratorium or repeal of rules that already exist or are under negotiation,” stressed an Elysée official, noting that Macron’s point was mainly about implementing existing rules before adding new ones. 

His comments sparked immediate criticism not only from the opposition but even from his more climate-friendly allies.

“Any speech that gives the feeling that we have done enough and that it is sufficient is a dangerous speech in the phase that is starting,” said Barbara Pompili, a former French environment minister with Macron, currently an MP. “You should never send slow-down messages,” she warned.

French MEP Pascal Canfin from Macron’s Renew Europe Group told Le Monde that Macron made an “unfortunate” [malheureux] comment, as it could have caused misunderstanding, while stressing that, unlike the EPP,  Macron was not calling for freezing environmental texts that are under discussion in Brussels. 

Centre-right politicians immediately stressed that they have been the first ones calling for less rules and to argue that Macron’s comments are in contradiction with its green policies.

“For months, we the EPP have been demanding a legislative moratorium to put an end to the excess of standards that hits all those who produce and work in Europe,” Francois-Xavier Bellamy, a French MEP for the EPP, said in a written statement, arguing that “the Macronist elected representatives, on the other hand, are pushing with the left and the Greens for the most restrictive regulations.”

The fact that Macron’s comments sparked mixed reactions and fuelled misunderstanding is no surprise for Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, an energy expert and director at the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE) in Paris. Macron is not new to using catchy expressions — such as the ones on not being “America’s followers” or on NATO’s brain death — which “agitate the media.”

“If Macron is suggesting to first focus on implementing the existing EU green rules and those that are being adopted in this mandate, then that’s also what the European Commission is saying,” he noted, adding that the use of the term “regulatory pause” was “maybe a bit clumsy, given its meaning in the EU context.”

Source : Politico