EU biodiversity law approved after last minute U-turn from Austria

EU states have given their final approval to a key biodiversity and nature restoration law, after Austria's climate minister defied her chancellor to back the Europe-wide legislation.

According to Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency, the U-turn by Austrian minister Leonore Gewessler gave the law the majority support it needed to be adopted this Monday.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, however, declared her decision "unlawful".

"No one is above the law," the chancellor's office said in a statement, adding that it would file a separate criminal complaint against Gewessler in Austria claiming "abuse of office".

The the so-called Nature Restoration Plan is a central part of the EU's ambitious environmental goals under its Green Deal, which aims to have the bloc become carbon-neutral by 2050, and ecological groups hailed its adoption.

Belgium issued a statement saying EU environment ministers had validated the law, which already received European Parliament assent in February.

Monday's approval means protecting EU "biodiversity and the living environment of European citizens," said Alain Maron, environment minister for the Brussels region, who chaired the meeting.

"It is our duty to respond to the urgency of the collapse of biodiversity in Europe, but also to enable the European Union to meet its international commitments," he added.

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