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Let’s not forget the key players in biodiversity

Ulrike Müller
European Parliament

Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the "EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Making more space for nature in our lives" by a clear majority. The strategy aims to restore, make more resilient and adequately protect European ecosystems by 2050.

In the future, this will mean an expansion of protected areas to 30% of the EU's territory. In so-called areas of high biodiversity value, additional protection will take effect: Here, the European Commission wants to allow no cultivation whatsoever on 10% of land and 10% of the sea.

What sounds promising in theory, however, is viewed critically by two of our MEPs, Ulrike Müller (Free Voters) and Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (EAJ-PNV): "We have to pass laws to protect biodiversity more and protect it better, there is no doubt about that. But there is also no doubt that we need to do this in consultation with the people who work in, with, on and for the land and the sea," said Izaskun Bilbao Barandica.

Ulrike Müller adds: "The fact of the matter is that we are cultivating more and more land and at the same time have to preserve it for future generations. This can only succeed if we treat farmers and foresters not as a problem but as partners. Central to this is a clear commitment to their property rights. This must be the starting point of our European biodiversity strategy."

For Ms Müller, there is no question that increasing human land use must be better reconciled with environmental protection and species conservation. But this cannot succeed if legitimate claims of farmers and foresters are violated, she said: "Farmers and foresters are the most important key players at the heart of the strategy. If we don’t respect their property rights, how can we count on them to put the measures into practice? Embedding respect for property and protection of property rights in the biodiversity strategy is imperative."

During yesterday's session, Parliament also called for a biodiversity law to be adopted at the UN conference in October, modelled on the EU's climate law, to set out priorities for biodiversity until 2030 and beyond.

Basque MEP Bilbao Barandica calls for a constructive dialogue before a potential law: "The communities that live in rural areas today, the coastal communities, are part of the environment, they are the key to its preservation and the key to our food security. Therefore, they deserve to be protected. True sustainability must thus also include a productive, social and cultural dimension. And that is achieved through more dialogue with those who know most about living with nature."