Nature restoration battle: how to navigate an increasingly polarised European Parliament?

Nature restoration battle: how to navigate an increasingly polarised European Parliament?

We are noticing 2 key trends which are very relevant to stakeholders: a repositioning of the EPP on key EU policy areas and an electoral strengthening of the center-right ahead of the EU elections of 2024. This combination may lead to a substantial impact on the direction of certain EU regulations in the coming year(s). 

The increasing polarisation within the European Parliament was laid bare by the latest stalemate on the Nature Restoration Regulation. The ENVI committee was split in two equal sides (44 MEPs each) and was thus unable to either advance or reject the Commission proposal. The vote in the upcoming plenary session is challenging to predict, due to the bigger numbers of decision-makers (705 of them). Stakeholders who want to make sure that the final outcome will be in their favour need to focus on the undecided MEPs whose votes can swing the final outcome.

This seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. We are observing that such splits are becoming increasingly common due to the repositioning of the EPP on green deal initiatives and its call for a regulatory moratorium. Notably, the EPP has not supported proposals such as the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and the revision of the CO2 emission performance standards for cars.

This low level of support for key legislative initiatives stands out, although the reality is that the major groups have not seen eye-to-eye on several regulatory matters throughout the course of the whole legislative term.

For example, when it comes to votes on the energy green transition, pharmaceutical regulation or chemicals, S&D and EPP voted against each other about half of the time, in which cases the smaller groups played a pivotal role in determining the majority. On other topics, such as data protection, industrial regulation or nature restoration, the two groups voted against each other even more often. 

NB: This analysis is based on all relevant votes on these topics since July 2019, including separate votes on paragraphs and amendments. 

Agreements are becoming more difficult to find as the major groups feel the pressure of increased electoral competition from the fringes.  Thus, we should expect a bigger number of decisions adopted by very small margins as we get closer to the elections. 


This trend is likely to continue in the post-elections EP as well: according to our latest projections, the biggest centrist groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are set to lose seats in 2024, to the benefit of the more radical factions, especially right-wing and nationalist ones.

In addition to the polarisation, there could be a significant shift in terms of regulatory appetite: the Commission will have to step up its engagement with the EP to get its legislative initiatives approved as current polls project the right-wing camp to be close to half of the seats in the next European Parliament.


The increasing polarisation also takes a toll on the cohesion of political groups themselves, especially on the most disputed regulatory areas. As with other environmental discussions, the Renew Europe group is highly divided on nature protection and restoration, as seen during the key committee votes. For instance, the more market-oriented Renew delegations deviated from their group’s line on this topic over 40% of the time when voting (especially the Czech, Germans, Finnish, Swedish, etc.). To a lesser extent, similar fault lines are also observed in other political groups, such as the EPP and S&D.

As decision-making in the EP becomes increasingly unpredictable, data-driven analysis is increasingly required to identify which MEPs are likely to be the swing influencers that stakeholders need to focus on. The video below shows how our tools can save you time and energy:

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