Elections to the European Parliament took place on 6–9 June, and the outcome of those elections may influence the environmental and agricultural policies of the EU. On the one hand, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) scored an important victory, giving Commission President Ursula von der Leyen significant political capital to negotiate a second term, aided by the surprisingly positive result of the EPP’s traditional partners, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, which won nearly as many seats as in the previous elections. On the other hand, the right-wing opposition enjoyed unprecedented support, strengthening the caucuses of the European Conservatives and Reformists, led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and of the radical-right Identity and Democracy, the political group of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Although many of the newly elected members officially remain Non-Inscrits (i.e. members who do not belong to any political group), they are likely to gravitate to the latter two groups. The growth of the EPP and the right-wing opposition came at the expense of the Greens and of the liberal Renew Europe group, both of which saw heavy losses.

The impact of the election results on environmental policy is yet to be seen, but it is likely that the EU will follow a more cautious, less environmentalist approach than the one it took during von der Leyen’s first mandate. Unless the Commission President forms a majority with the Greens – a political move that carries significant risks – implementation of the already-approved Green Deal files can be expected to follow a more farmer- and industry-friendly course, albeit one that retains the core objectives. Should it be included in the Commission’s next programme, any legislative action on soil health beyond the existing Soil Monitoring Law is unlikely to face a less hostile environment than it did in the outgoing Parliament.

The elections did not put an end to von der Leyen’s majority, as many had predicted, nor does the result signal an end of the Green Deal or of the green transition. Nevertheless, the rise of right-wing parties, many of which have strongly agrarian agendas, and the EPP’s return to its traditional role as the “party of the countryside” mean that environmental concerns will hardly be the only, if even the main, consideration in policymaking. As such, it is even more important to advocate for safer soils and to raise awareness of the importance of continuing to pursue efforts in this direction and to go beyond the achievements of the past five years.