Europe and Central Asia
1 Mar 2018

Nature in the rich man’s world

© Sonia Goicoechea
By Ariel Brunner

Ariel Brunner calls for more funding for EU nature conservation in his editorial for the latest issue of the BirdLife Europe & Central Asia newsletter. Read the full issue – February Newsletter: The Silence of the Leaders

All of us know the challenges of managing our budgets - of saving bit by bit for something we are keen to do, or to have, of splurging foolishly on something that we know deep inside is beyond our means, of just not having enough to make ends meet as the month draws to a close. And we know that the choices we make with our hard-earned money are true reflections of ourselves, revealing our priorities, our dreams and our failings.

And so it is with the European Union. We all feel the ferment in our great transnational dream these days. Whether it be Berlin or Brexit, change, uncertainty and frustration are in the air. Governments seems increasingly remote from citizens’ preoccupations, unresponsive in consistent and coherent ways to their needs, their dreams and priorities. Nowhere is this more evident than in the EU budget.

"We are watching with dismay as the EU prepares its next multi-annual financial framework (MFF). Given that it seems shackled by old systems and strategies which are demonstrated to have failed, we can assert with confidence they won’t work in the future." 

That is why it is so ironic that as the EU struggles to increase citizen confidence in its existence it seems to so mindlessly repeat the budget priorities of the past. Its spending choices reveal its relevance to our lives.

We are watching with dismay as the EU prepares its next multi-annual financial framework (MFF). Given that it seems shackled by old systems and strategies which are demonstrated to have failed, we can assert with confidence they won’t work in the future. And nowhere is this more evident than in the largest single EU budget line - the Common Agricultural Policy. Out of its EUR 58 billion pot, most goes to the richest and largest agricultural interests. An equally devastating corollary to this injustice is that this spending is rapidly destroying biodiversity, in flora and fauna, and failing to deliver any of the environmental benefits and services that an overwhelming majority of the EU population repeatedly says it wants as a priority. Only a pittance, less than 0.3%, is spent on the enormously effective LIFE program which enhances and protects the life-giving system of biodiversity which underpins our survival on the planet.

As Sweden’s ABBA sang so seductively:

Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
Aha aha…
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world

If our EU leadership is truly serious about re-connecting with us as citizens and taxpayers, and securing its future as our unique continental bulwark of democracy, the rule of law,  peace and prosperity, then it must change how its spends the money we put into its wallet.

Thinking that you can keep Europe safe and sustainable only through better border security systems and immigrant control is naive. Europe cannot simply shut out the problems of a planet nearing ecological collapse. The fundamental challenges of climate change, over exploitation of natural resources and the degradation of our ecosystems must be addressed now, and this not a luxury that can be left for better times. It is a question of survival.  Redirecting the EU budget to reflect this, starting with serious investments in biodiversity and climate action and with transitioning our food and farming system is a great place to begin.

Ariel Brunner - Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia 



Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on the ECA section of this website are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.