No veto from Brussels: Austria can ban glyphosate
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
The European Commission did not block the glyphosate prohibition passed by the Austrian parliament. It could come into force at the beginning of 2020. It is still open whether the glyphosate producer Bayer will take legal action against the prohibition act. And in Austria the responsible ministries are slowing down the process.
Austria was the first EU country to ban the use of herbicides containing glyphosate in early July 2019. In parliament, all parties except the conservative ÖVP voted for an amendment of the regulation. The adopted amendment was sent to the EU for notification as usual. It was keenly anticipated whether the EU Commission would use the three-month procedure to veto the amendment. The deadline for this expired on November 29th. However, the Commission did not send a ‘detailed opinion paper’ with a ‘no’, as was expected by farmers’ associations and the producer Bayer. Instead, it merely sent a note to the Austrian government, noting that usually the drafts of laws were submitted for notification, not the already adopted laws. From this, the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture derived from this the danger of an EU procedure for breach of contract. Legal uncertainties could therefore not be eliminated, Agrarheute quotes the ministry. In the Wiener Zeitung, the Ministry of Environment pointed to possible lawsuits by farmers who are no longer allowed to use glyphosate and could claim compensation.
Austria as a pioneer with signal effect for the whole of Europe
Greenpeace Austria commented that neither the European Commission nor other member states have raised a legally binding objection to the ban. The Commission and Italy had only commented on the Austrian initiative, which does not legally justify any further postponement on the regulation. As support, Greenpeace referred to an expert opinion by Daniel Ennöckl, a law professor in Vienna. Sebastian Theissing-Matei, agricultural expert at Greenpeace in Austria, therefore rejoiced without reservation, saying that the phasing out of glyphosate in Austria is a historic milestone for the protection of health and biodiversity in Austria. He sees Austria as a pioneer with signal effect for the whole of Europe, which could influence France and Germany to follow soon. The Austrian environmental organisation Global 2020 was delighted that Austria as country of origin would henceforth stand for freedom from glyphosate throughout Europe. They also warned that support for farmers to switch to glyphosate-free production methods is crucial now.
As early as July, the glyphosate producer Bayer announced legal actions in the case of no reaction by the European Commission. In September however, the corporation changed its strategy by indicating that they would not act on national bans as long as the EU renews the approval for glyphosate. On request from the Informationsdienst Gentechnik, Bayer stated that they will now examine the situation in detail and assess their options once the notification procedure at EU level has been completed.
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