Aerial view of a deforested area in the municipality of Melgaco, Para State, Brazil, on July 30, … [+]
Citizens are calling for radical policies to protect the Amazon rainforest. Last week they reached out to the European Parliament’s special commission with their petitions.
F.C. is an anonymous Italian petitioner who contemplates the possible suspension of trade relations with South American countries responsible for deforestation. He was not alone.
Koben Sprengers, Belgian, proposes a similar ban. He points out that agricultural companies set small parts of the rainforest on fire to clear land for cattle breeding and soy cultivation. Sprengers highlights that Finland already urged the EU to consider banning the sale of meat products from Brazil and calls for massive support for this decision.
M.R., German, calls for an immediate halt to the negotiations on the EU-Mercosur trade agreement. On behalf of 340 organizations, he is asking “the EU to use its influence to prevent a worsening human rights and environmental situation in Brazil, respect and promotion of human rights being an overarching objective of the Union”. They claim the Brazilian administration “continues to threaten the basic democratic functioning of civil society, with the Ministry of Agriculture being made responsible for indigenous land demarcation, paving the way for more cattle and soy agribusiness, and by doing so accelerating deforestation”. That’s why they also ask for support to Brazilian civil society and for monitoring of human rights violations, in particular towards local communities and environmental defenders.
Like many others before, these petitioners expressed their concern at the worrying situation and complained that the Brazilian government dismantled some environmental programs. “As such, this shows its unwillingness to take any action against deforestation,” Sprengers’ text reads.
Last summer, the EU signed an ambitious trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – following a long history of exchanges. Indeed, the EU is Mercosur’s number one trade and investment partner (€41 billion export).
Mercosur’s biggest exports to the EU in 2019 were agricultural products, including meats and other animal products (6.5%). But the EU is also the biggest foreign investor in the region, with an accumulated stock of investment that has gone up from €130 billion in 2000 to €365 billion in 2017.
Ratifying the Mercosur trade agreement, on the other hand, “means facilitating the trade of products that are responsible for wild deforestation, loss of biodiversity, violation of the rights of indigenous people and increased carbon emissions,” said the Green party’s member Rosa D’Amato.
“We share these concerns,” said Paolo Garzotti, representative of the Commission’s DG Trade. “However we believe that the agreement is part of the solution and not part of the problem” because “if we step in with a paternalistic attitude we will never obtain any engagement” from third countries.
Veronique Lorenzo, head of the South America division of the European External Action Service (SEA), added that this agreement was not “negotiated with the Bolsonaro government” in Brazil, but is the fruit of 20 years of work. It is important, she said, that it is considered as a “mutual commitment” with countries that are natural allies”. “In such a polarized world, they look at us with even more attention.”
After a long debate with various MEPs, from the European Green group to the centre-right Epp, the president of the parliamentary commission Dolors Montserrat decided that all files can remain open. Future will tell if the agreement will bring yet another risky business for European countries, as citizens fear, or an inspiration for South America.
I am a reporter focused on the environment and EU politics. I am currently based in Brussels, where I work as a freelancer for ANSA, Forbes, The Beam Magazine and the