European Commission pushed Netherlands to expropriate farmers in nitrogen crisis: report
The European Commission advised the Netherlands to forcibly buy out farmers in the nitrogen crisis, Follow the Money and NOS report based on documents they’ve viewed. Former PvdA leader Diederik Samson, as chief of staff for European Commissioner Frans Timmermans, gave that advice to Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality officials during a meeting in November.
Mandatory buyouts of farmers are a very sensitive topic in Dutch politics. Farmers’ party BBB, who will soon be the biggest party in the Senate after last week’s massive victory in the provincial elections, is vehemently against forced expropriation, as is a majority in parliament. The Netherlands’ current nitrogen policy has mandatory buyouts as the last available option.
But the European Commission thinks forced buyouts is the best way out of this crisis, Samson said in his conversation with top Dutch officials in November. He said that the Netherlands is stuck and minor adjustments won’t help, pointing out that road construction, for example, has reached a standstill because Dutch nature can’t take any more nitrogen precipitation.
Samson pointed out that the voluntary buyout scheme has been pending approval in Brussels for some time. The European Commission is usually quite strict about such schemes but more lenient when it comes to forced expropriation. That would also make it possible to give farmers forced to stop more money or other favorable conditions, Samson said.
Samson said that the Netherlands has very little room for delays or flexibility at the European Commission. Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal previously said that the Netherlands “must deliver first” before it can expect more lenience from Europe. Samson: “In that respect, Van der Wal is more right than she thinks.”
Formally, the European Commission checks that member states comply with all European rules, but it largely leaves how up to the countries themselves. NOS asked Samsom about his conversation with the Agriculture officials. He said that he only pointed out the various European rules on expropriation and buyouts. “The choice between the two instruments based on other considerations is, of course, left to the Member States,” he said.