The agrarian reform stall negotiations: the EU Parliament has decided on the main points. Ministers are still under discussion. There is a German proposal that could resolve the blockade.
With a new compromise, Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner wants to resolve the blockade in the negotiations on the EU’s agricultural reform. During the deliberations of the agriculture ministers of the EU states in Luxembourg, the CDU politician presented a new proposal on Wednesday evening. 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.
An agreement should now be reached as soon as possible, Klöckner said. Negotiations on the reform with the European Parliament can then start shortly. Farmers in Europe need planning security. After a discussion by the ministers that evening, it must be considered whether an agreement is possible. “It would be great if we could do that, because that’s what we expect,” said Klöckner.
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.