El País | 10 August 2023
By Naiara Galarraga Gortázar
Lula accuses the EU of disguising protectionist measures as environmental concern
The dozen countries that for millennia have best preserved their tropical forests — vital ecosystems for the planet to contain the climate emergency — want the industrialized nations to stop making empty promises and pull out their wallets. That is the message to the world’s wealthiest states delivered at the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization climate summit hosted by Brazil, whose President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took the opportunity to level a harsh accusation against the European Union: “Protectionist measures poorly disguised as environmental concern are not the way forward,” he declared on Wednesday at the close of the meeting with the rest of the Amazonian countries and those that are home to the world’s largest rainforests. The message was clear enough, even if Lula did not mention the EU, the EU-27 trade agreement with Mercosur or the recent European law that bans the import of products from deforested areas.
Lula insisted on the line of demanding that rich countries pay those who care for the forests, but with the additional argument of historical responsibility: “It’s not Brazil that needs money. It’s not Colombia that needs money. It’s not Venezuela. It’s nature,” the Brazilian president said, adding that the industrialized nations now need to “pay their part so we can revive part of what was ruined. Nature is in need of money.”
The new European environmental demands that Mercosur rejects have become the main obstacle to the ratification of the treaty that both blocs agreed in 2019 after two decades of negotiations. The added demands by Brussels, and a law that since May vetoes EU imports of soybeans, coffee, cocoa, or meat from illegally logged or degraded areas, has touched a nerve in Brazil and the rest of the Mercosur countries, who consider it an affront and part of what Lula defines as “green neocolonialism.”
France was also singled out. Emmanuel Macron was invited to the Belém summit as president of French Guiana, an overseas territory that is home to a small piece of Amazonia, but he did not confirm his attendance. The French president issued a tweet in which he congratulated Lula for organizing the summit, stressing that “Forests are absolutely essential in the fight against global warming and biodiversity loss,” while noting that France is “a driving force behind the European Union’s historic decision to no longer contribute to imported deforestation” — precisely the rule that has so irritated Brazil because it appears to be directed toward it.