During the multi-billion dollar agricultural reform negotiations, EU ministers reached an agreement. Federal Minister of Agriculture Klöckner managed to resolve the blockade with a proposal.

EU countries have agreed on a multi-billion dollar agricultural policy reform. After nearly two days of negotiations, the agriculture ministers of the member states reached a compromise proposal from the German presidency of the EU Council on Wednesday morning in Luxembourg. Since the European Parliament also wants to determine its final line this week, both parties can then negotiate with each other.

Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner had previously submitted a new proposal. Klöckner said there had been “many, very intense discussions” with the other countries. As Germany holds the presidency of the EU states until the end of the year, she is leading the negotiations. The ministerial meeting started on Monday morning.

It is a lot of money

The CAP reform aims to make European agriculture more sustainable, but the debate is also about a lot of money for the Member States. Agricultural policy is the largest item in the EU budget. In the provisional agreement of the EU countries for the next community budget, EUR 387 billion has been earmarked for this over seven years, of which more than EUR 42 billion for Germany.

Most of the funds traditionally flow as direct payments to farms. Under current EU regulations, this money can be linked to environmental programs, so-called Eco schemes, to provide incentives to farmers for greater environmental protection. The use of eco-schemes has so far been voluntary for Member States.

That’s what the new proposal offers

According to Klöckner, that should change with the reform. The new proposal now stipulates, among other things, that EU countries must reserve 20 percent of direct payments to farmers for so-called organic regulations. These are environmental requirements that go further than the mandatory requirements. If a farmer fulfills them, he gets extra money. However, several EU countries had refused to make it mandatory. Therefore, the proposal now provides for a two-year learning phase.

The first reactions from the other ministers during a public round table were mostly positive. However, several politicians stressed that the paper still needed to be analyzed in detail. Lithuania, on the other hand, said the proposal could not be supported.

The EU Parliament is committed to the main points

While ministers are still under discussion, the European Parliament has already decided on the key issues in the billions of EU agricultural policy reforms. The MPs voted on Tuesday evening, among other things, that in the future at least 30 percent of direct payments must be used for so-called eco-regulations. These are environmental requirements that go further than the mandatory requirements. If a farmer fulfills them, he gets extra money.

MEPs also approved an amendment to increase sanctions for those who repeatedly violate EU requirements. At least 6% of the national budget for direct payments must be allocated to small and medium-sized farms. More than a third of the money earmarked for rural development goes to environmental and climate measures.

Criticism of reform: “worst kind of greenwashing”

But the proposal of the three largest groups – the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Liberals – also met strong criticism. Accordingly, insufficient account is taken of environmental and climate protection. The three parliamentary groups triumphed against the climate, Green MP Michael Blossom wrote on Twitter.

Greenpeace agricultural expert Lasse van Aken called the compromise “greenwashing of the worst kind” – that is, the attempt to give the reform an environmentally friendly face without good reason to do so. “Without environmental requirements, most of the taxpayers’ money continues to flow as direct payments, benefiting mainly large companies,” says van Aken.

In 2018, the European Commission proposed a reform of the CAP for the years 2021 to 2027. There is now a transition phase for the next two years, so that the new rules will not enter into force until 2023.

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