Battle lines being drawn ahead of a key vote by MEPs on future of EU farm policy

Ahead of Tuesday 20 October vote, the European Parliament’s political groups have been engaged in last minute discussions on their positions.
Rooster and cow - credit Archie McPhee

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

17 Oct 2020

Manoeuvring has led to the Greens/EFA grouping accusing the two biggest groups, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), of forging a “grand coalition” which the Greens say fails to set binding targets.

At a news conference late last week Greens deputy Bas Eickhout, shadow rapporteur on reform of the CAP, in the Parliament’s influential Environment Committee said, “Ahead of this crucial vote, Social Democrats in the Parliament seem to have teamed up with the Christian Democrats in renouncing binding targets for climate protection and biodiversity.”

The Greens want the CAP, in future, to incorporate the EU’s biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies but say this is unlikely to happen under the agreement thrashed out by the EPP and Socialists.

Future farm policy should also include capping of direct payments and promotion of community-based farming building on short supply chains, they argue.

Martin Hausling, the Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur in the Agriculture Committee, told reporters, “Next week parliament has the chance of voting in favour of a fair and green agricultural future in line with the Green Deal and the EU strategies on biodiversity and Farm to Fork. Unfortunately, the Social Democrats changed sides and now seem to support the continuing shortcomings of the past and even watering down current weak rules on climate action, animal protection, the use of pesticides and antibiotics.”

“The Greens/EFA demand mandatory linking of the Common Agricultural Policy to the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies. We will press for financing small farmers instead of huge agri-business, supporting farmers to produce ecological food and funding those who take climate action and engage in animal welfare and investing in shorter supply chains.”

He added, “For climate action, the Green Deal targets and a sustainable agricultural policy, the EU cannot afford leaving it up to Member States to voluntarily decide about climate protection and biodiversity.”

“After 18 months of negotiations I thought we had got a majority in favour of a reform which would set very ambitious targets but what surprises us is that in the last few weeks the Socialists said they would go with the EPP with a new package. This left us very disappointed " Greens/EFA  group shadow rapporteur in the Agriculture Committee, Martin Hausling

Safeguarding food supplies for nearly 450 million people is one of the EU’s main policy missions. Since 1962, the CAP has aimed to support the livelihoods of farmers and improve agricultural productivity, while ensuring a stable supply of affordable food for Europeans.

At over €58bn per year, the CAP is by far the largest subsidies scheme the EU runs. It made up 39 per cent of the last budget – triple what the bloc pays in for job creation.

Hausling added, “After 18 months of negotiations I thought we had got a majority in favour of a reform which would set very ambitious targets but what surprises us is that in the last few weeks the Socialists said they would go with the EPP with a new package. This left us very disappointed because we had set much more ambitious targets and wanted to change the system radically. Unfortunately this looks like it may not happen. We will be totally against the EPP-Socialist proposals in the vote on Tuesday.”

Eickhout meanwhile told reporters, “We want the EU to link the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies to the CAP. The proposal being voted on next week is an old one which dates from the Juncker Commission under the former commissioner Phil Hogan.

"We say that CAP reform should enshrine the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies and that this is not being done in this proposal from the Socialists and EPP.”

He added, “Remember, this CAP reform is for the next seven years so it is important.”

He added, "The key question is if the big groups will take our proposals on board or go with the retarded, old fashioned deal they struck. I think we can still change the proposal even though, in theory, the big groups have a majority.

"The Socialists need to decide if they just want to be the puppets of the EPP. I know there is a lot of unhappiness in the Socialist group on this package with the EPP and that is why I think we can get a lot of support for our position from them” Greens/EFA  group shadow rapporteur in the Environment Committee, Bas Eickhout

“Our proposal goes in another direction to theirs so it is up to individual MEPs to decide.

“What is clear is that Parliament’s position on CAP reform needs to be adopted next week and nothing is set in stone. The Socialists need to decide if they just want to be the puppets of the EPP. I know there is a lot of unhappiness in the Socialist group on this package with the EPP and that is why I think we can get a lot of support for our position from them.”

Further comment comes from ECR shadow rapporteur Bert-Jan Ruissen, who said, “Negotiations have been going on for months. We will seek to preserve the viability of farming in Europe and stress that farmers must remain at the heart of farm policy as they are the ones working the fields for our food.

“Rewards and compensations must be granted for any additional efforts rather than heaping on new requirements. We are calling for a decrease in the regulatory burden. We need a CAP that works in practice and boosts smart solutions, in order not to lose our farmers.”

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