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Good morning. An explosive scoop to start: Brussels has sketched out how to sabotage Hungary’s economy — complete with analyses of Budapest’s biggest financial vulnerabilities and how to exploit them — if Prime Minister Viktor Orbán vetoes a financial aid package for Ukraine this Thursday, in a confidential document seen by the Financial Times.

Today, the EU’s climate commissioner tells our correspondent the EU must push ahead with its green agenda despite rising resistance, and my Brussels colleague reports on the promise of medicinal tomatoes being dangled before Europe’s farmers.

Onwards

The EU’s climate chief has doubled down on Brussels’ green agenda, telling Alice Hancock that the “worst thing” the bloc could do is fail to continue pursuing its ambitious targets to combat climate change.

Context: Brussels is due to publish its recommendation for how much the bloc should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 next week. But the European Commission is feeling the heat not only from global warming: businesses and farmers say that the raft of paperwork stemming from its environmental legislation is making it impossible for European industries to compete.

Wopke Hoekstra, the EU’s climate commissioner, said easing off was not an option, in an interview in which he also rebutted claims that green policies erode competitiveness.

Businesses need a “clear horizon”, he said. “The worst thing is to change your goals . . . particularly companies in heavy industry, companies with a very long investment horizon, it helps a lot to have clarity”.

Finding the investment to reach that goal is another matter, however.

The EU’s €800bn Covid-19 recovery fund, financed by common borrowing, provides a significant amount of the public money dedicated to green projects. But it runs out in 2026.

Hoekstra said that raising more joint EU debt to fund the transition was a “sensitive discussion” but that it was important to look at “all elements on the balance sheet” and consider the costs of not acting before baulking at the investment needs required, which the commission estimates at €1.5tn per year (not adjusted for inflation).

There would, for example, be significant cost savings from the fall in fossil fuel imports.

“Yes there is a price tag but there is also a huge opportunity,” said the Dutch politician.

Hoekstra, a Christian Democrat, also defended his conservative European People’s party group, which has pushed back against several key pieces of green legislation. The group, of which commission president Ursula von der Leyen is a member, is concerned by the impact on farmers, who are protesting across Europe.

“The EPP . . . is a family of ambition, it is a family of balance,” Hoekstra said. Its politicians were not denying the severity of climate change but ensuring that middle class families and businesses could also “thrive”.

Chart du jour: New destinations

Bar chart of Percentage change in international tourist arrivals versus 2019 showing Top performing European destinations in 2023

Extreme heat is driving tourists to rethink their summer holidays, with European destinations such as Iceland and Albania seeing increased interest.

You say tomato . . . 

With farmers on the march across Europe over the cost of going green, the European Commission is deploying a new weapon to win them round: a genetically engineered tomato, writes Andy Bounds.

Context: The agriculture industry has been hit by rising costs of fertilisers and pesticides, and falling harvests because of climate change as well as new green regulations. Brussels wants to give them access to new crops that could thrive in droughts or survive high winds.

A law still in discussion would loosen regulation for new genomic techniques — essentially ways of speeding up conventional crop research in the lab by tweaking genetic material.

Japanese professor Hiroshi Ezura, who created the world’s first commercially sold gene-edited fruit, a tomato that can reduce blood pressure, visited Brussels last week to convince lawmakers to press ahead.

Prof Ezura’s team introduced a genetic change to stop the erosion of a natural enzyme called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as the fruit ripens. GABA is already sold as a health supplement in Japan, where nearly half the population has high blood pressure, and a tomato a day can now keep the doctor away.

The EU has blocked most genetically modified plants because of consumer resistance. Prof Ezura said the so-called NGTs were far quicker and worked with existing genes rather than introducing others. 

Scientists are working on rice that gives higher yields and potatoes with lower toxin levels. “We can improve environmental resistance and reduce fertiliser use,” he said in an interview, urging the other EU institutions to back the commission proposal. 

The environment committee of the European parliament did so last week — but several member states led by Austria, where more than a fifth of farmers use organic methods, remain opposed to the plan. 

What to watch today

  1. Commission president von der Leyen and parliament president Roberta Metsola join Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and more than 20 African leaders for a summit in Rome dedicated to the continent.

  2. EU General Affairs Council, from 9.30am.

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