Game, set and match against France Business

As Putin’s war pushes UN food price index to record high, Elysee seizes moment to derail EU’s ‘farm-to-table strategy’, a set of measures which sound the death knell of the old common agricultural policy and its mega-subsidies to French agro-conglomerates.

Reforms pushed by the German and Nordic Greens aim to halve the use of pesticides and increase the organic share of produce to 25% by 2030. This is pushing a philosophy of sustainable agriculture with less use of Food for animals.

President Macron has other plans. “It was based on a world before the war in Ukraine and would reduce production by 13%. These objectives need to be reviewed. Under no circumstances can Europe consider producing less,” he said.

This loss of 13 pc is disputed. It ignores the science showing that status quo factory farming erodes the soil and is unsustainable. But ecological objections are swept aside by the new refrain of European agricultural sovereignty.

“Since Russia uses food security as a weapon, we must counter it with a food shield. A paradigm shift is needed in the way Brussels thinks about agriculture,” said the powerful French farmers’ lobby FNSEA.

Brussels gives in to pressure from agrochemical multinationals. She delayed the revised directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, and another on ecosystems.

It’s a parallel story on the energy front. The worst gas crisis in living memory finally ended the era when Germany could export its anti-nuclear ideology through EU regulations. Berlin was unable to stop France from labeling nuclear power a form of clean energy under Europe’s €1 trillion Green Deal. This unlocks significant investment flows.

Putin rehabilitated the French nuclear industry, which still supplies 70% of its electricity. The network was in trouble earlier this winter when a fifth of its 56 reactors were shut down for safety reasons, and France had to switch on two old coal-fired power stations to avoid blackouts.

He’s still in trouble, of course. The first Hinkley-type reactor at Flamanville has again been postponed to 2023, 12 years behind schedule and four times over budget.

State-owned EDF expects a 26 billion euro drop this year, partly because it is forced to supply energy below market prices to help Mr Macron’s re-election. It will need a bailout from the state, so this consumer subsidy is tax in disguise.

Nonetheless, French nuclear power has proven to be a strategic buffer in times of crisis, appreciated as Europe tries to reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

It is Germany that is struggling to explain why it closed three functioning reactors in January and why it plans to close the last three later this year, while still insisting that a gas embargo against Russia is too traumatic to contemplate.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-12 13:00:00

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