In response to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech, the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) has reacted with significant concern. While we welcome the mention of a ”Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture in the EU”, we were left troubled by the lackluster support for the European Green Deal and the conspicuous absence of key environmental considerations.
Prior to President von der Leyen’s speech, the EVU had sent an open letter to the Commission President, urging a reaffirmation of the European Green Deal’s climate ambitions, including the Farm2Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy, in the face of recent political resistance. The EVU underscored Europe’s pivotal role in leading the global fight against climate change and stressed the importance of the European Green Deal for the welfare of future generations.
One contentious issue highlighted in the letter was the Sustainable Food Systems Framework. The letter called on the President to maintain ambition in this area, advocating for a transition towards plant-based diets to reduce carbon emissions and promote environmental conservation. Sadly, no mention of this flagship policy was made. The promised Animal Welfare package, claimed as a priority by the Commission, was also left out.
In a statement, EVU Policy Advisor Ronja Berthold said, “The European Green Deal was once a flagship and ambitious programme. Unfortunately, today’s speech left us with a sense of disappointment. The Green Deal was mentioned hastily, with a lukewarm commitment that raises questions about the Commission’s dedication to its initial ambitions.”
The EVU also expressed concern that there was no mention of adapting the food systems framework, the role of the livestock industry in climate change, or the need to reduce meat consumption. Additionally, there was no reference to the Farm2Fork strategy, which has been a crucial element of the European Union’s sustainability efforts.
Nevertheless, the EVU welcomed President von der Leyen’s announcement of the Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture in the EU – albeit with some reservations. The importance and success of this dialogue will be based on whether it is a genuine strategic platform with the equal involvement of all stakeholders in shaping the future of European agriculture, aligning it with environmental, health, and economic targets.
As Europe grapples with the urgency of climate action and sustainable food systems, the EVU remains committed to advocating for policies that promote sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. We fervently hope that future discussions and actions will align more closely with the ambition needed to address the pressing challenges we face.