They have needed 48 hours to agree on a joint position on the reform of the European Common Agricultural Policy. Not surprisingly, almost 400,000 million euros distributed in seven years -47,724 million for Spain- are at stake, more or less the same as the total amount of subsidies of the recovery plan due to the covid crisis.
The Twenty-seven try to resolve their differences on the eco-schemes to agree on the new CAP
The CAP is the main item in the EU’s multiannual budget. The Agriculture Ministers meeting in Luxembourg have agreed on a CAP reform based on the document of the German rotating presidency and which includes 20% direct payments to ecological plans, the so-called eco-schemes. And with the position agreed at four in the morning on Wednesday, the governments will attend the trilogues, the negotiations with the European Parliament – whose position is being set this week in Brussels – and the European Commission, to finish finalizing the reform.
The main novelty of the reform are the so-called ecological plans or eco-schemes, that is to say, the green architecture of the new CAP: sustainable agriculture, precision agriculture, the regimes in favor of the climate and the environment, agroforestry and organic agriculture, but Member states would be free to design their own instruments based on their needs, such as Europa Press advanced.
The eco-schemes is a new payment that the countries will have to offer obligatorily to the producers, although they will be able to decide voluntarily whether to use them or not. In other words, these are additional but optional green requirements that go beyond mandatory conditionality.
The document prepared by Germany for the meeting this Monday sets 20% of the direct aid of each country to this type of regimes and establishes a transition period with some flexibility to achieve it during the first two years of the CAP (2023 and 2024 ). “The agreed position allows member states to have the necessary flexibility on how to achieve environmental objectives. For example, there would be a two-year pilot phase for eco-schemes and member states would enjoy flexibility on how to allocate funds under different green practices.” , explains the Council of the EU.
The initiative has been approved by a qualified majority, with the only vote against by Lithuania and the abstentions of Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia: they fear that a mandatory percentage at the European level could make it difficult to disburse the aid and ask that it be established at national level .
On the other hand, Denmark or Portugal were in favor of setting a minimum percentage of direct payments for eco-schemes, and 20% was a “good starting point”. The Netherlands advocated raising that threshold to 30%.
The Spanish position in the negotiation, argued by the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, has been to defend a minimum weight of 20% for these new regimes, but has requested that the flexibility measures be extended until 2027 and not limited to two years .
Planas highlighted in a press conference at the end of the European Council of Agriculture Ministers that the “final agreement corresponds exactly to the scheme that we had proposed from the beginning.” In particular, that 60% of direct payments will be allocated to basic income for the sustainability of producers and 20% is reserved for new eco-schemes, the biggest obstacle in the negotiations.
The agreed reform also includes a “new execution model that allows countries to choose the best tools and actions at their disposal (and also taking into account national specificities) to achieve the objectives and standards agreed in the EU.” According to the agreed reform, “farmers will receive financial aid on the condition that they adopt practices that are beneficial for the climate and the environment.”
“Farmers who go beyond basic environmental and climatic requirements”, state the 27, “will get additional financial support through the introduction of eco-schemes. These new instruments for the protection of the environment and the climate are linked to a specific budget. , which are part of the direct payments budget. It will be capped at 20%. An initial two-year pilot phase would ensure that Member States do not lose much-needed funds while they become familiar with the new instruments. ”
The EU agriculture ministers have also pledged that “all farmers are subject to stricter environmental standards, even the smallest ones. To help them in this ecological transition, small farmers would be subject to more simplified controls, which would reduce the administrative burden and would ensure its contribution to environmental and climate objectives. ”
Debate in the European Parliament on the proposal of PPE, S&D and Renew
In parallel to the process of the 27 governments to agree on a joint position, meeting in Luxembourg, the European Parliament is setting its own, based on a document agreed by popular, socialists and liberals in Brussels before going to the negotiations, the trilogues.
The PP MEP Juan Ignacio Zoido has assured: “We are not going to tolerate a radical change like the one that some propose for a model as successful as the CAP has been until now. Despite the budget cut that the EU Council gave to the farmers last July, there are still those who want to impose more burdens and demands on them ”, he affirmed in reference to the new conditions linked to the protection of the environment of the reform.
Clara Aguilera MEP, socialist spokesperson for the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament, stressed that “the sustainability of the CAP has to be environmental, social and economic, because if there are no competitive farms, there is no sustainability”. Iratxe García, president of the Social Democratic Group in the European Parliament, has said: “We do not want a policy only for the environment: it must also be social.”
The spokesperson for Podemos in the European Parliament, María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, has criticized, for her part, that the text under debate, prepared by popular, socialists and liberals, is “hardly redistributive”, and that “the definition that is made of the eco-schemes raises doubts, because the scheme is an incentive to the implementation of certain sustainable practices and that idea is quite distorted”.
Palop has also warned that “the very fact of using precision agriculture allows a farmer to stay within the scheme and receive that money, because it can be a drain that ends up favoring agribusiness almost exclusively.”
The president of the liberal group (Renew Europe, the group of Citizens and PNV), the Romanian Dacian Ciolos, has defended the green sense of the reform in his speech: “Agricultural policy must be changed now. Our decision must send a clear signal to farmers: we need you! Without you, there is no green deal “.
Greens Agriculture spokesman Martin Häusling lamented: “” What is on the table should not be called reform. We are only voting on what the three largest political groups want. We can’t go on as usual! With these proposals, the biodiversity strategy, the farm-to-table strategy and the EU Green Deal they are in danger”.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has stated: “In the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, the EU is about to close almost € 400 billion for a new agricultural policy completely ignoring climate and biodiversity. Even a child knows not that’s how democracy is supposed to work. ”