Fertilizers Regulation: EU's failure to address challenges of cadmium limits is a massive institutional failure

Low limits will only benefit Russian producers, argues Jarosław Wałęsa

Strict new cadmium limits could deprive Morocco and Tunisia of much-needed export revenues, warns Jaroslaw Walesa | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Jaroslaw Walesa

29 May 2017

Here’s a trick question: What do cadmium limits share with the Arab Spring, Russian oligarchs, Lampedusa and rise of anti- EU populism?

If you don’t know, it means the European Parliament is no longer debating key aspects of legislative proposals and is now a partisan waste of time.

Cadmium limits, the most controversial part of the new fertilizer regulation, has been assigned – against legal advice - exclusively to the ENVI committee.


This is the one committee that cannot be trusted to balance all conflicting interests. ENVI has become a political shouting match, where party loyalty trumps all reason. Predictably, the left argued for more stringent limits without letting science get in the way, on the grounds that “ENVI is always greener than the Commission”.

A perfect example of this was an excellent extended Shadows’ meeting on decadmiation, organised by ENVI rapporteur Elisabetta Gardini. Not one shadow rapporteur from the S&D, Greens, GUE or EFDD groups from any of the four committees attended.

This did not prevent them from later claiming that decadmiation technology was readily available - despite repeated attestations to the contrary by experts at the meeting - and that the only issue preventing its implementation is lack of mandatory limits.

Political groups supporting low limits used the committee’s exclusive competence to block discussions on other aspects of the limit. Using

S&D and ALDE votes, my own INTA committee concluded that phosphate rock import dependence, WTO compliance and foreign trade-distorting practices preventing the EU from importing phosphate rock are somehow not “international trade” issues within INTA’s competence. This example of partisan politics will only hurt INTA’s future standing.

The European Parliament has failed to address the challenges of cadmium limits. The uncomfortable truth is that low limits will endanger phosphate fertilizer producers and blenders in Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK. Workers losing their jobs due to ill-conceived EU legislation created by unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy will not help the vote against populists.

"With resurgent Russian aggression, it is difficult to understand why the Commission believes it is good to offer them a monopoly over our food security"

The limits will only benefit Russian producers, which have monopolised low-cadmium apatite phosphate deposits and which already dominate the EU fertilizer market. This will also increase the price of fertilizers, which will hurt our farmers. With resurgent Russian aggression, it is difficult to understand why the Commission believes it is good to offer them a monopoly over our food security.

Imposing limits will deprive Morocco and Tunisia of much-needed export revenues; a prime example of short-sighted EU policy. It risks compounding the radicalisation of Muslim youth in North Africa and increasing the flow of refugees and migrants.

As by the Tunisian Ambassador poignantly reminded us, the Tunisian Arab Spring protests began in the Gafsa phosphate mines, where young men have three options: work for Gafsa, join ISIS or jump on a boat to Lampedusa.

When our socially-conscious friends from the S&D, Greens and GUE groups vote in ENVI this week on low cadmium limits, they should remember their role in shutting down these mines.