The Liberal Right’s toxic game

The Nature Restoration Law’s destiny is on hold after the suspension of the vote in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. The vote will resume on the 27 June. Before the final vote, the time has come to take a closer look at the harmful role played by the RENEW group, formed in 2019 by Emmanuel Macron in the European Parliament, with regards to the text’s adoption.

The recurring gap between declarations and actions

The Liberal Right group RENEW has made the European Green Deal and nature protection two key commitments for the 2019-2024 term of office, arguing “for an ambitious European Green Deal and an effective Climate Law “. It called on the EU to “step up the protection of nature through an ambitious 2030 Biodiversity strategy aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss in Europe and globally”.

Faced with the EPP’s anti-environmental offensive, Pascal Canfin, member of RENEW and Chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, finally broke the silence on Tuesday June 13, denouncing the EPP’s “weakness” and its use of “blackmailing”. He simultaneously published a long LinkedIn post, denouncing the Right’s “fake news”, and reminding us that “every vote counts during the Environment Committee and plenary sessions”. In conclusion, Pascal Canfin shares that he is “appalled to see the European Right drifting more and more towards the populism of the Far-Right, at the expense of nature, the economy, and farmers.”

His intentions may seem honorable. But it takes on a whole new dimension when the responsibility of his own parliamentary group, RENEW, is involved in the fiasco and psychodrama surrounding this law.

The calamitous RENEW vote

On May 23, it was the 7 votes of RENEW MEPs, who built an alliance with the Far-Right and the conservative, Eurosceptic Right, that enabled the Nature Restoration Law to be rejected in the Agriculture Committee.


On May 24, it was again the 3 votes of RENEW MEPs, once more allied with the Far-Right and the conservative, Eurosceptic Right, that led to the rejection of this law in European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

Pascal Canfin’s concern regarding the Right’s drift towards “the Far-Right, at the expense of nature, the economy, and farmers” thus extends to RENEW, which forged a shameful alliance with the anti-ecological and reactionary forces in the European Parliament throughout this sequence, and enabled the text to be rejected.

Indeed, six RENEW MEPs – Asger Christensen (Danish), Martin Hlaváček (Czech), Jan Huitema (Dutch), Elsi Katainen (Finnish), Ulrike Müller (German) and Irène Tolleret (French) – swung the vote in the Agriculture and Fisheries Committees. By doing so, they alone plunged the European Parliament into torpor and dread at the thought of seeing a crucial piece of Europe’s Green Deal fail in the Environment Committee.

But above all, it was the RENEW political group’s lack of ecological conviction, which we documented in a ranking of the European political groups’ ecological performance and of the the Environment Committee members, that forced the Ecological left MEPs (Greens, S&D, The Left) to multiply their concessions for months, in an attempt to rally RENEW, the pivotal group in the European Parliament, to their cause.

Massive concessions from the Ecological Left to rally RENEW

In January 2023, Marie Toussaint, Yannick Jadot, Jutta Paulus and Grace O’Sullivan (Greens), Delara Burkhardt (S&D), Marina Mesure, Younous Omarjee, Anja Hazekamp, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace (The Left) and Sirpa Pietikäinen[1] (EPP) tabled a series of key amendments to protect and restore marine ecosystems. In response to scientific recommendations, these amendments, which were immediately applicable, could have made it possible to launch legislation to protect the ocean in line with environmental challenges, and to benefit small-scale and inshore fishing: 

  • The protection of 30% of marine ecosystems, a third of which under “strict protection”[2];
  • The implementation of effective protection measures for protected and restored marine areas, in particular through “strict protection”[3];
  • A ban on industrial fishing, particularly bottom trawling, in protected and restored marine areas[4];
  • A ban on destructive fishing techniques[5];
  • The exclusion of vessels over 25 meters-long from the 12-nautical-mile coastal waters, for the benefit of ecosystems and coastal fishing[6].

However, as soon as on 1 March 2023, we denounced the European Right’s political ploys against this text, the first compromise amendments already showing a clear retreat by the ecologist parties following the Right’s relentless battering.

This is where RENEW’s responsibility for the destruction of the Nature Restoration Law, beyond its toxic alliance with the Far-Right and the conservative, Eurosceptic Right, reaches a whole new level. Pascal Canfin and all RENEW MEPs committed to the Green Deal must live with the fact that for months, while the ecological Left (Greens, S&D, The Left) sought at all costs to rally the Liberal-Right RENEW group to its cause, the latter never publicly disassociated itself from the Right and Far-Right, taking full advantage of the threat of the text’s rejection to obtain new concessions.

RENEW’s sabotage of ecological ambition

The reference to “strict protection” as a tool for protecting and restoring marine ecosystems disappeared in mid-May 2023. On May 31, 2023, Right in the middle of the final round of negotiations and as the EPP slammed the door once and for all, it was the essential principle of “non-deterioration” of ecosystems that was shattered among other significant setbacks, in an attempt to win over a majority of RENEW MEPs. And for what? Only to learn, a few days later, that these final concessions did not guarantee a unanimous vote by the RENEW group in the Environment Committee.

Meanwhile, the key amendments relating to marine protection were “integrated” into a compromise amendment void of substance and constraint, which simply calls on EU member states to “ensure the continuous, long-term and sustained effects of the restoration measures (…) through effective means, including, where appropriate, by the designation of protected areas, by the implementation of other effective area-based conservation measures, or by promoting private land conservation measures, taking into account the ecological requirements of the restored areas”  (compromise amendment no. 11).

Pious hopes devoid of any requirements, which leave EU member states free to perpetuate the French and European sham of so-called marine “protected” areas, and extend it to “restored” areas.

How can we be satisfied with such a vaguely worded amendment when in metropolitan France industrial fishing now operates almost half of its time in so-called marine “protected” areas?

The plenary vote as last resort

The aftermath of this first session of votes leaves a sour taste:  the support of the RENEW MEPs, which includes French MEPs from Emmanuel Macron’s party, would have enabled a clear victory for this text of vital importance for nature and the climate. The second session and the plenary vote scheduled for July still offer the liberals a chance to redeem themselves.


[1] In our assessment of the ecological performance and ranking of the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee members, Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen is the only EPP member to have a good score with 16.5/20.

[2] Amendments 555, 556, 960, 962, 963, 1013.

[3] Amendments 1020, 1013, 1037, 1038, 1152, 1153

[4] Amendments 964, 968, 969

[5] Amendements 1088, 1089, 1091

[6] Amendments 1025,1086, 1087, 1090

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