A coalition of 11 EU countries has proposed to scrap national targets in the EU’s proposal to halve the use and risk of pesticides by 2030, which could now work its way into the Council’s official position as part of inter-institutional talks. 

The Commission’s original proposal on sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR), presented in June of 2022, proposes the calculation of national reduction targets, which, together, add up to an overall EU target of 50% reduction by 2030.

In this way, the EU executive aimed to create tailor-made targets, calculated annually, designed to accommodate differences across many EU countries in terms of their use of pesticides as well as the challenges they face whilst ensuring a common general direction of travel.

“Each Member State shall contribute, through the adoption and achievement of national targets […] to achieving by 2030 a 50% unionwide reduction of both the use and risk of chemical plant protection products,” the Commission’s proposal reads, adding this progress “shall be calculated annually” by the EU executive.

However, a coalition of 11 member states has proposed a rewrite of the SUR proposal to scrap a reference to national targets entirely, according to a leaked contribution to the EU Council work seen by Euractiv but not accessible to the general public.

The proposal was put forward by Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia and was presented at a working party meeting on Monday (16 October).

Instead of national targets, the proposal suggests that each member state should describe in its national action plan “actions to be taken to contribute to approaching Union 2030 reduction targets”.

The text also scraps a reference from the Commission’s proposal to the calculation methodology of these national targets.

These actions should be “based on sound scientific and statistical principles”, according to the proposal, which lists several factors to consider when designing these actions.

This includes, for example, food security needs, the availability of “economically and technically justified” non-chemical measures and the kinds of pests present in each member state.

The proposal adds that these actions can be tweaked if circumstances change.

This includes, for example, if the need to use more hazardous plant protection products has “increased due to lack of alternatives” or the emergence of new pests, either from invasive species or from effects arising from climate change, as well as changes in pest resistance status.

However, this list is non-exhaustive, with the proposal adding that member states are also entitled to “amend appropriately” actions due to unpredictable reasons other than those referred to in the proposal.

The SUR proposal is currently undergoing discussions by lawmakers in the Council and the Parliament, the latter of which hopes to have a position together in time for a definitive vote in November.

With ministers still negotiating their position on the file, its final shape is still up for grabs. This means that, if it wins the backing of other countries, this proposal could make it into the EU Council’s final position and be discussed in the inter-institutional negotiations, known as ‘trilogues’.

Asked about the reaction in the room, a source close to the matter told Euractiv that there is “limited support for binding reduction targets”.

However, the move has not gone well with stakeholders, who warned that it guts the Commission proposal of any substance.

“Deleting binding national reduction targets […] would lead to the SUR being a measure for nothing,” Kristine De Schamphelaere, agriculture policy officer at the campaign group Pesticide Action Network Europe, told Euractiv.

She added that the move is out of touch with “the voice of citizens and science”, pointing to a recent IPSOS poll which surveyed citizens’ views from across 6 EU countries. It found that as many as 81.8% of respondents are concerned about the environmental impact of pesticide use, while 75.9% worry about the impact of pesticides on their and their family’s health.