🌍 The EU curbs its green policies after pressure from farmers

Plus: Apple Vision Pro real-time translation

Hi Intriguer. In my brief stint as a trade negotiator, I learned all about the power of farmers in landing (or avoiding) trade deals.

A promising trade negotiation could easily be derailed if it failed to incorporate the interests of a wagyu beef lobby group, a tropical fruit exporters association, or a pasteurisation certification body.

Today’s briefing looks at how the EU is again learning all this the hard way, across a broader range of issues, and with impacts for us all.

- Helen Zhang, Co-Founder

PS - We’re partnering with our friends at Lykeion to produce a special primer on next week’s Indonesian elections, hitting inboxes this Sunday.

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The EU curbs its green policies after pressure from farmers

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday (Tuesday) she’ll withdraw plans to halve the use of chemical pesticides by 2030, following weeks of widespread protests by EU farmers.

Intriguers in Europe will have seen these demonstrations dominating front pages for weeks, with attention-grabbing strategies like blocking roads with tractors, and our personal favourite: dumping manure in front of parliament.

But a recent escalation of protests in France (dubbed the ‘Paris blockade’) inspired similar moves across Greece, Spain, Germany, Belgium and beyond.

So what’s this all about? There are local farmer complaints specific to each European country, but a few key grievances cut across national lines:

  • High costs, declining prices - Energy, fertiliser, and fuel costs have all spiked since 2022, and while they’ve since declined from their peaks, so have produce prices and profit margins

  • Competition - Farmers in the EU’s east object to cheap imports from Ukraine, while French farmers revile a proposed EU trade deal with South America (which would bring competition from Brazil and Argentina)

  • Regulation - Many dislike various EU green rules that require anything from halving pesticide use, through to the setting aside of certain farmland (both aimed at slowing local biodiversity loss)

  • State aid - Others say the EU’s infamous common agricultural policy (CAP), which spreads vast subsidies across the bloc’s farmers, has been favouring large corporate farms and not keeping up with inflation

So the EU has buckled: not only has the Commission now folded on its pesticide regulation and delayed its land use rule, but it’s also quietly removed a reference to a 30% ag-emissions reduction target from the bloc’s 2040 agenda.

Of course, in a tweet, Commission President von der Leyen pitched it all as the EU simply needing to “place more trust” in farmers.

But you might guess how others are pitching it:

  • The farmers themselves are saying it’s a return to common sense, helping protect the EU’s food security and rural livelihoods while pursuing more realistic climate goals

  • Environmental voices are describing it as pure ‘greenstalling’, and

  • Capitals around the world are quietly accusing the EU of hypocrisy, noting the EU’s usual driving role at the annual COP climate talks.


So, how would we describe it? The word ‘punting’ comes to mind.

First, the EU is punting this debate back until after the EU’s elections in June. But the polls point to a more populist new parliament that will be more pro-farmer. It’ll be up to President von der Leyen’s successor to figure that out, but her most likely successor will be… a re-elected von der Leyen herself.

Second, by curbing agricultural references in its 2040 emissions targets, the EU is basically punting the sector’s reforms back beyond 2040. It’ll be a steeper climb then, but the EU is hoping the politics will be more forgiving.

Third, this means the EU is also effectively punting its emissions reduction burden onto other sectors in the meantime, like energy, transport, and manufacturing. But these sectors are already doing it pretty tough.

And fourth, the world will continue to say the EU’s support for its farmers punts tough burdens onto non-EU farmers, who simply can’t compete with the world’s largest bloc spending a third of its budget on agriculture.

But hey, politics is tough. And sometimes you’ve just gotta punt, right?

Also worth noting:

  • The farming sector accounts for ~11% of the EU’s emissions. 



  1. 🇬🇪 Georgia: Local authorities say they’ve intercepted a clandestine cargo of explosives bound for Russia from the Ukrainian port of Odessa. Moscow previously accused Ukraine’s special forces of using a similar smuggling route to mount the 2022 attack on the Crimean Bridge.

  2. 🇳🇴 Norway: During Norway’s most senior visit to China since 2018, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi have called for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza”. The two trade partners are also major donors to the UN in Gaza, though Norway’s intel services have previously labelled China a “threat”.

  3. 🇱🇰 Sri Lanka: Thailand and Sri Lanka have signed a free trade agreement, as the latter struggles to recover from its worst-ever economic crisis. Talks on this trade deal began back in 2016. 

  4. 🇬🇾 Guyana: The US is increasing its military aid to Guyana as Venezuela threatens to annex a long-contested region (which makes up over half of Guyana’s current territory). Washington is providing aircraft, helicopters, drones and, for the first time, radar technology.

  5. 🇸🇳 Senegal: Authorities have removed a group of opposition lawmakers before a key vote postponing Senegal’s elections to December. Widespread protests broke out after President Macky Sall postponed this month’s elections in what many see as a power grab.


The new Apple Vision Pro (L) and a demo of its Navi translation app (R)
Credits: Apple and Navi

For a team that’s spent cumulative decades learning foreign languages, it’s with the full spectrum of human emotion that we digest this news: Apple’s new Vision Pro has dropped, and it features an app providing real-time translation and captions for when you’re immersed in another language.

Of course, there are still lots of reasons to learn a language, like being able to talk rather than just listen, or being able to simply wander the streets of Tokyo without wearing massive nerd goggles. But still, call us intrigued.

Yesterday’s poll: Is a democracy still a democracy if it votes itself towards autocracy?

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤔 Yes, if that's what the people truly want (30%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩  No, you cannot vote away certain rights (65%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (5%)

Your two cents:

  •  W: “This gets to the distinction between democracy and democratic republic. In the former, the will of the majority is the law. In the latter, there are certain rights which are protected no matter what, which would include the right to a democratic form of government.”

  • 🤔 H.G: “Yes, but the tricky part is getting those rights back when the people want them again.

  • ✍️ P.M.C: “I have frequently visited and worked in El Salvador going back 30 years. I have to acknowledge, with significant reluctance, that there are times when strong man politics are necessary to restore public security. I worry about El Salvador’s future, but none of my Salvadoran friends seem to share my concern.”


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