Last week the EU ministers came to an agreement on the overall EU budget. What has been decided upon the CAP budget? And what does that mean for the Greening of CAP?
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council introduced the acceptance of the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) last Friday on his Twitter page by writing:
‘Deal done! The European Council has agreed on MFF for the rest of the decade. Worth waiting for.’
Although this is not the final agreement, as the European Parliament still has to confirm the Council decision, it is highly unlikely that the EP risks the hard-fought agreement reached at the Council. Will there be a meaningful CAP reform?
Decrease in CAP budget 2014 - 2020
Last week EU ministers got together to discuss the MFF 2014 – 2020 for Europe. It appears that within the MFF agreement the CAP budget is pushed down to €373 billion for 2014-2020, compared to the current €421 billion, indicating an 11% decrease. However, the cut is still less than in previous proposals from van Rompuy in November last year.
Going into detail, commitments covering agriculture, rural development, fisheries and a financial instrument for the environment and climate action should not exceed €373 billion in 2014-2020, of which €278 billion (75%) will be dedicated to market related expenditure and direct payments (pillar 1 of CAP). The two pillar structure will remain, though rural development budget was reduced even further in the final negotiations to €85 billion (14% decrease compared to the current situation).
Greening watered down?
It seems that the original proposals of the Commission on greening, generating a huge debate in various forums in the recent year, are watered down. According to the final conclusions of the Council:
67. The overall environmental performance of the CAP will be enhanced through the greening of direct payments by means of certain agricultural practices, to be defined in the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy, beneficial for the climate and the environment, whilst avoiding unnecessary administrative burden, that all farmers will have to follow. In order to finance those practices, Member States will use 30% of the annual national ceiling, with a clearly defined flexibility for the Member States relating to the choice of equivalent greening measures. The requirement to have an ecological focus area (EFA) on each agricultural holding will be implemented in ways that do not require the land in question to be taken out of production and that avoids unjustified losses in the income of farmers.
Though this sounds nice, the heads of state left open basically all the key questions such as crop diversification or crop rotation, the percentage of the environmental focus area (EFA), as well as possible equivalence and concepts and the type of protection for pastures. The essence here is that each and every Member State has the flexibility to create an own list of greening measures and what is even more, Ecological Focus Areas (ECA) cannot take land out of production, meaning that valuable management practices for protecting water quality, soils and biodiversity may be totally excluded. All this suggests a very light greening in the future.
EP votes for Green Reform?
The original intention of the Commission was to explain the CAP to European taxpayers as one delivering environmental public goods, requiring significant amount of money. Some forums believe that the decisions will leave enough room for the EP to discuss and vote on a meaningful CAP reform, others believe the CAP is maintaining the status quo and no reform is to be made at all as the CAP reform has been faced with delay after delay, making it difficult for a meaningful and innovative reform to take place, increasing the pressure to come to an agreement between EU Council and the EP as time is running out. Delaying the necessary measures is always a convenient solution in the short run but what about our future in the long run? Can we afford waiting for another seven years?
One side or the other, the CAP budget is been decided by the EU Council. All other details will be subject to to further negotiations among ministers and the European Parliament. However, the EP first has to hold its plenary vote on the CAP reform in March. What will they vote for?
Let’s demand a Green and Fair CAP!
We want our politicians to be aware of the important choice they are going to make. Join us in our campaign and tell a member of parliament how you think about the CAP!