Only a German minister’s decision to break his government’s voting protocol tipped the balance in favour of the five-year licence extension for glyphosate usage approved by the EC last week.
Conservative agriculture minister Christian Schmidt backed the extension, which had been opposed by the SPD, the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s caretaker government alongside Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), of which Mr Schmidt is a member.
Mrs Merkel rebuked Mr Schmidt for the move. “This did not comply with the instructions worked out by the federal government,” she said. “I expect that such an incident will not be repeated.”
It is usual practice for Germany to abstain in EU votes if ministers from different parties disagree on a policy. Schmidt’s decision has strained relations between the two camps before exploratory talks on renewing their alliance.
Defending his decision, Schmidt said the EC would have probably decided on a longer extension if the vote had been indecisive once again. “I took the decision on my own,” Schmidt told German public television. “It falls under my responsibility.”
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron of France, which had argued for a three-year extension for glyphosate and a rapid phasing out of the weedkiller, said he would take measures to ban the product as soon as an alternative was available and at the latest within three years.