Common Agricultural Policy reform
MEPs under huge pressure on eve of CAP vote
By Joanna Sopinska | Thursday 07 March 2013
Ahead of the 13 March plenary vote at the European Parliament on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package, the lobbying campaign by farmers’ organisations and environmental and civil society groups has reached fever pitch. A last-ditch effort to influence the MEPs’ vote was also made this week by Dacian Ciolos, the agriculture commissioner, who called for a “fairer CAP for a competitive and diversified agriculture” (see
According to a source in Parliament, some 300 amendments will be put to a vote either by the political groups or at least 40 MEPs. Under the current rules of procedure, the political groups and groups of at least forty MEPs will also be free to call for a split vote. A proposal to this end can be put forward shortly before the vote (no deadline set). It is expected that the majority of the amendments submitted by midday on 6 March will address the most controversial decisions taken by the EP’s Committee on Agriculture (AGRI) in January (4571 and 4572). The list will include the greening and capping of direct payments, transparency in the use of CAP funds, double payments, internal convergence of direct payments and market management measures.
Irked by AGRI’s support for what they see as the watering down of the greening measures and cutting many of the rules on animal and environment safety as well as scrapping rules on financial transparency, environmental and civil society organisations have called on the EP plenary to “shift the CAP towards greater ecological, economic and social sustainability”. In a letter by more than 270 NGOs across the EU, the signatories called on the MEPs to overturn AGRI’s decisions on inter alia greening, double funding for environmental measures and cross-compliance. If AGRI’s position were to be confirmed, “money would continue to flow to subsidies, which negatively affect our environment, jobs, good farming practices, our health, developing countries and animal welfare,” the organisations warned. The WWF, one of the signatories, called on the MEPs to reject AGRI’s proposal to delete half of the existing cross-compliance requirements and to limit the ecological focus areas (EFAs) to 3% (5% from 2016). Each farm should have at least 10% EFAs, WWF said in a separate paper. “We also need to reintroduce a system of crop rotation,” it added. The organisation strongly opposes AGRI’s proposal that would allow farmers to be paid twice for the same agri-environmental measure.
The call for more tangible greening rules was supported by Commissioners Janez Potocnik (environment) and Connie Hedegaard (climate action). In a joint letter sent, on 5 March, to the European Parliament, they admitted to be concerned “about the direction of the debate over the Commission proposals in Parliament” and called on MEPs to “correct” AGRI’s proposals “at least in a few essential areas”. They urged the plenary to retain greening as an obligatory and additional measure, maintain key elements in cross-compliance rules, support the 7% limit for the EFAs by 2017 and limit the scope of measures being treated as equivalent to the greening measures.
Meanwhile, Copa-Cogeca, the EU biggest farmers’ lobby, has called on MEPs to further increase flexibility vis a vis the greening measures. In a statement issued on 7 March, the organisation called for more “incentives” for farmers to achieve green growth and spoke against taking 7% of land out of production to create EFAs. “We have serious concerns that the EU will be the only state that will be cutting back on its agricultural potential at a time when there are major worries about food security,” Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said. “That is why the European Commission proposals to reduce the amount of land in production by as much as 7%, with no clear environmental benefit, makes no sense and must be revised in the vote by Parliament next week,” he added.