Scandalous plan:

Brussels wants to whip Mercosur through after the elections

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15.05.2024 06:00

Even before the citizens have had their say, (scandalous) plans are already being made in Brussels for the time after the elections. They apparently want to conclude the long-blocked and controversial Mercosur trade agreement quickly. According to a Brussels negotiator. Resistance is to be expected from Austria.

Rupert Schlegelmilch, Brussels' chief negotiator, traveled to the four Mercosur states of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay last week to clarify the technical details of the agreement. If it is signed, it would be the EU's largest agreement to date, covering ten percent of the world's population and 20 percent of global gross domestic product.

"The agreement is alive"
In an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, Schlegelmilch announces that the agreement is to be sealed as early as June. This is according to the online portal "euractiv.de". The elections to the European Parliament will take place from June 6 to 9. "The agreement is alive and kicking. The fact is that the Commission is still negotiating," said Schlegelmilch. "We have a mandate from all member states, including France, to do this", emphasized the Brussels representative.

Cheap beef from Argentina could flood the European market as a result of the Mercosur agreement. (Bild: AFP)
Cheap beef from Argentina could flood the European market as a result of the Mercosur agreement.

The agreement was concluded in 2019. However, ratification was delayed due to environmental concerns and fears about the impact on the EU agricultural sector. The latter were raised primarily by France and some other EU countries. French President Emmanuel Macron declared the trade agreement dead in January.

French President Macron is facing protests from farmers. (Bild: APA/AFP/POOL/GONZALO FUENTES)
French President Macron is facing protests from farmers.

Brussels does not want to deviate from the plan
Brussels apparently cares little about what the population wants and continues to negotiate. "I want to be completely honest: At the moment, with the elections and farmers taking to the streets in many places in Europe, it's simply not a good time. So we have to wait for the end of the elections," explained Schlegelmilch.

Schlegelmilch talks openly about plans after the elections. (Bild: Staatsministerium Baden-Württemberg)
Schlegelmilch talks openly about plans after the elections.

Farmers fear for their livelihoods
There is not only opposition to Mercosur in France. Austria's farmers see the agreement as a threat to their livelihoods and want to prevent it at all costs. "Do we really want to sacrifice our agriculture for an outdated trade agreement?" asks Farmers' Association President Georg Strasser in the "Krone" newspaper, addressing the EU Commission.

EU-Mercosur Pact

Among other things, the EU-Mercosur P act provides for an increase in the import quota for cheap beef from the current 200,000 tons to 300,000 tons per year. The import quota for sugar is to be increased by 10,000 tons, while the import quota for bioethanol - which is also obtained from sugar cane - is to rise by as much as 650,000 tons.

The pact would further fuel slash-and-burn agriculture in the Amazon region, while sugar beet farmers and cattle breeders in Austria would come under enormous economic pressure, warn climate activists. The EU is already importing agricultural goods that are directly responsible for the destruction of 120,000 hectares of forest every year in the four Mercosur countries alone. That's one soccer pitch of forest every three minutes.

Back in 2019, the Austrian National Council made a binding commitment to say no to EU-Mercosur. This decision is still supported by the population: according to a survey published in 2023 by the SPAR retail chain and Greenpeace, a large majority of 87% of Austrians reject the trade agreement.

Agreement through the back door
"The Commission is apparently still planning an agreement through the back door. But we farmers will not be taken for fools. We have managed to get the current federal government to commit to rejecting the Mercosur trade agreement in its current form," says Strasser.

Environmentalists warn of disaster
Environmental organizations are also strongly opposed to the pact. "The EU-Mercosur trade pact means one thing above all: corporate profits at the expense of nature, the rural population in South America and farmers in Austria," warns Greenpeace Europe head Alexander Egit in an interview with the "Krone" newspaper. "Any attempt to conclude the harmful pact after all must be strictly rejected. The Austrian government led by Chancellor Nehammer and Vice-Chancellor Kogler must vehemently oppose this plan in Brussels," he demands.

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

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