Final battle lines drawn as discussions on future EU agricultural policy enter the home stretch

After months of negotiations, it is hoped that the new CAP will be approved in meetings involving the European Commission, Parliament and Member States, known as “trilogues”.

The deal could free around € 54 billion a year in agricultural subsidies between 2023 and 2027 and is equivalent to 30% of the total EU budget.

The new deal comes from the Juncker Commission, which predated the EU’s Green Deal, and questions remain as to whether proposals for environmental, climate and social ‘conditionality’, or initiatives such as the eco-program, will survive in the last round of negotiations.

Agriculture is believed to be directly responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and the impact on climate action is another issue under discussion.

Other key issues to be resolved this week include how the Commission and Member States will reconcile the CAP deal with the European Green Deal, a flagship policy of the Von der Leyen Commission.

These are some of the issues that will be debated on Wednesday by ministers, MEPs and officials, including EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski.

Portugal, the current EU president, wants to reach an agreement on CAP reform and agricultural payments from 2023 to 2027 before handing over the reins to Slovenia at the end of June.

Difficult talks have been going on for many months and many questions remain open, but a Commission source said she hoped the talks could be concluded next week.

“The final CAP deal is unlikely to reflect many of the proposals championed by progressive farmers, unions and environmental groups. Concerns have been raised about the close relationship between ‘Big Ag’ and EU policymakers ” Anna Ratcliff, European Climate Foundation

An EPP spokesperson said the group wanted a deal that “protects the European model of farming based on family farms that provides safe, high-quality food at affordable prices while meeting environmental standards”.

An S&D spokesperson said: “The EU needs a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable CAP.”

The new CAP aims to make the EU’s agricultural policy greener and address long-standing concerns about corruption and the unequal distribution of funds between large and small farmers.

Last week, climate and environment experts and the farming community attended a conference on what the CAP deal means for the EU’s climate and biodiversity commitments, for farmers , agricultural workers and rural communities and the future of European agriculture.

Campaigners remain skeptical about reaching a satisfactory deal, saying payments will still largely depend on the size of the farm.

Anna Ratcliff, of the European Climate Foundation, told this site: “As a result, it will do little to ensure fair prices for farmers, support family farms and rural workers, revive rural communities, support a transition to organic and agroecological agriculture, reduce gas emissions or reverse biodiversity loss. It also risks undermining the EU’s Green Deal. “

She said: “The final CAP deal is unlikely to reflect many of the proposals championed by progressive farmers, unions and environmental groups. Concerns have been raised about the close relationship between “Big Ag” and European decision-makers. “

She added: “It is also a fact that many European politicians are the main recipients of grants and have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.”

Last week’s conference, hosted by the European Climate Foundation, was accompanied by a policy brief produced by a coalition of environmental, climate, trade union and agricultural organizations.

Entitled ‘CAP Agreement: Unfit for Use’, the document describes what the new agreement could mean for farmers, farm workers, the environment, the climate and the future of EU agriculture. .

It indicates that under the current system, around 80 percent of direct CAP payments go to 20 percent of mostly large-scale and often intensive and industrial farms.

“This is unlikely to change under the new agreement,” the newspaper said.

There are at least ten million farmers and agricultural workers in the EU and, according to the guidance document, a high proportion are undeclared workers or on short-term contracts that offer “little or no security of employment. employment ”.

“Poverty wages, lack of adequate social coverage, deplorable health and safety standards and substandard housing remain challenges,” he adds.

The newspaper said: “With a week to go, there is still a small chance for negotiators to make incremental improvements. However, the final CAP agreement is highly unlikely to adequately address the environmental and social challenges facing European agriculture and will only delay the inevitable transition to a more just and sustainable food system. “

He adds: “The agreement expected next week marks the end of three years of wrangling at EU level. But this is not the end of the reform process: Member States will now have to develop national CAP plans to determine the exact rules and incentives available to their farmers from 2023. “

The document, seen by this site, concludes: “EU agriculture is facing multiple crises – climatic, biodiversity, health and social – which can no longer be ignored.”

“More and more farmers, farm workers and consumers are demanding a food and agriculture system that delivers societal, environmental and climate benefits. There are many positive examples of this type of system across the EU. It is time for politicians to catch up. “

In addition, on Thursday, Parliament’s budgetary control committee will discuss a study on “The 50 largest beneficiaries in each EU member state of the CAP and cohesion funds prepared at the request of this committee.”

The EPP Group called for the first time to trigger the new conditionality to protect the EU budget for the Czech government and to put an end to new disbursements of funds.

This follows what she calls the “devastating verdict” of the final conflict of interest audit of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš by the Commission, which concluded that Babiš was the beneficial owner of Agrofert and therefore “infringed the Czech Conflict of Interest Act. . “

An EPP spokesperson said: “His position as Prime Minister gives him the opportunity to influence the allocation of EU funds to the Czech Republic. As such, it violates the EU financial regulations. “

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