- EU Parliament and Belgian Minister confirm what we’ve known all along; RED is a palm oil ban
- EU officials remain defiant; it’s not a ban
- Yet France is seeking stronger cooperation with Indonesia
- Brussels can’t see forest from the trees on Southeast Asia
The EU Parliament three weeks ago voted to amend the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and bring forward the so-called ‘phase out’ of palm-based biofuels. This would now happen in 2023, instead of 2030 as originally planned.
For years now, EU officials have desperately attempted to maintain the fiction that the RED is not a ban.
But Belgium’s Minister for Environment and Climate, Zakia Khattabi, admitted the obvious last year: and confirms that the Parliament’s vote was a move to accelerate the ban on palm-based biofuels. In a statement (since taken down), she said:
“Biofuels …based on soy and palm oil will be banned in the transport sector from mid-2022… Biofuels based on palm oil will no longer be allowed on the Belgian market (such as in Denmark, France and the Netherlands) in the transport sector from mid-2022.”
This is despite EU and member state officials claiming on numerous occasions that the RED is not a ban on palm oil products.
Michalis Rokas, the EU Ambassador to Malaysia, contradicted the Belgian Minister with a flat out denial of any ban, noting:
“I ought to emphasise that there is no, and there has never been, ban of palm oil based biofuels, or other palm oil products, in the EU.”
Vincent Piket, EU Ambassador to Indonesia echoed the contradiction of Amb. Rokas, falsely rejecting any suggestion that Brussels’ policies resulted in a ban on palm products by claiming:
“The EU indeed has no such ban and will not have one…”
It’s clear EU officials can’t see the forest from the trees, and are simply unwilling to admit they are banning palm-based biofuels in Europe. The facts are clear: the Parliament plans to remove palm oil from the RED quotas, which is a de facto ban. Employing sophistry to claim ‘no ban’ insults the intelligence of palm oil producing governments, who can clearly see the coming impact on their exports.
The EU has good reason to play a game of obfuscation, given the wider picture.
- First, the interim report from the WTO Dispute Settlement Panel on the EU’s trade ban is due shortly; it is quite likely that the report will find in favour of at least some of Indonesia’s case, which may well set off an arbitration process between Jakarta and Brussels.
- Second, a meeting took place two weeks ago between a French delegation of defense and trade officials and Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs. France stated it is seeking greater cooperation and open investment in Indonesia—the irony here is that France is seeking a more open environment for renewable energy investments.
- Third, the Commission still persists with the idea that a EU-Indonesia trade deal can be struck while Brussels continues to place multiple trade restrictions on Indonesia’s largest exports.
Coordinating Minister Airlangga Hartarto nonetheless pushed back in his meeting with the French officials. He argued that the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme should guarantee access to European markets, stating:
“That way, Indonesia’s palm oil market access to the European region can be maintained and continue to be improved in the future.”
If France and other member states are genuine in wanting a better relationship with Indonesia, they should take the hint: stop banning palm products.
Brussels can’t get its story straight, and can’t make its way out through the vast forests that permeate South East Asia, in particular Indonesia and Malaysia.
Perhaps those back in Europe don’t quite realise how bad the relationship with Jakarta is right now – and we’ll have more to come on that in the weeks ahead.