Parliament’s political groups go head-to-head on CAP reform

Tuesday will see the long-awaited plenary vote on the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. With food security, the fight against climate change and farming subsidies on the table, it’s set to be a parliamentary tug-of-war.

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

20 Oct 2020

In addition to the main issues which have divided MEPs and led to a two-year-long impasse on the CAP reform, the plenary vote has been unexpectedly brought forward to Tuesday instead of Wednesday and some MEPs are up in arms at being blindsided.

Portuguese Greens/EFA deputy Francisco Guerreiro tweeted on Monday evening, "Coup d’etat? Without explanation, the CAP Wednesday votes will now take place tomorrow!"

Fellow Greens MEP Tilly Metz said, "We just learned ‘by accident’ that the votes on CAP were advanced by an entire day! Many of the 1000+ amendments have not even been translated yet. Trying to rush already shady compromise amendments through plenary in the least democratic way."

The Greens/EFA group and GUE/NGL have also railed against what many are calling a “backroom” coalition between Parliament’s three largest groups - the EPP, S&D and Renew Europe - which have agreed to vote for the amendments.

Guerreiro said, "Only the compromise amendments of EPP, Renew Europe and The Progressives will be voted. This seems like an attempt to pass the compromises quickly before there is too much public backlash.”

The EPP Group, for its part, said, “We defend a future of the CAP that: Protects EU family farming; retains high-quality food production in Europe; keeps rural communities alive and secures jobs in the sector. We must ensure a fair balance between societal demands and climate targets.”

In Tuesday morning’s plenary debate on the CAP reform, Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said, “Agricultural Policy needs to be changed now. Our decision must send a clear signal to farmers: We need you. Without you, there is no Green Deal.”

Belgian Renew Europe deputy Hilde Vautmans said, “We vote for the reform of the CAP. For some the proposal is too green, for others not green enough. For me it is realistic and ambitious and it reconciles the continued existence of agriculture with the EU Green Deal.”

German S&D deputy Maria Noichl said, “We must align our agricultural policy with the goals of the EU Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. We also need a social architecture in the agricultural sector.”

“This text is an aberration. It misses all of its goals. This is a CAP which is not environmental, not social, which institutionalises dumping, and which goes against the objective of food sovereignty” Marc Tarabella, S&D

But the Greens/EFA Group pointed out the shortfalls in the CAP proposal, saying, “EU Environment says we're still losing biodiversity in the EU. There's a direct link between our EU agricultural policy and loss of biodiversity! This CAP proposal doesn't tackle this.”

The group then made a direct appeal to S&D and Renew Europe, saying, “Dear progressive forces, please reject it.”

Francisco Guerreiro said, “This CAP reform proposal would mean business as usual. Scientists say if we continue business as usual we will reach a point of no return in a decade.”

The GUE/NGL group said that the EPP Group was “working hand-in-hand with big agribusiness to undermine the future of our farmers and rural communities.”

“They must be stopped. We need a CAP Reform that supports sustainable agriculture and is in line with the EU Green Deal.”

GUE/NGL co-president Manon Aubry slammed European Parliament President David Sassoli for his “anti-democratic” move in limiting the debate and voting procedures on the CAP reform.

She said, “We've written to David Sassoli to denounce these backroom deals cooked up by the grand coalition and in favour of agribusiness. The future of the CAP is such a crucial vote: lowering emissions of greenhouse gases; the social crisis among small farmers; the future financing of farming.”

She added, “Yet, for the Parliament to ‘save time,’ we won't have a proper text or translation during the vote. It's unacceptable.”

“We vote for the reform of the CAP. For some the proposal is too green, for others not green enough. For me it is realistic and ambitious and it reconciles the continued existence of agriculture with the EU Green Deal” Hilde Vautmans, Renew Europe

Irish GUE/NGL deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said, “The EPP Group, The Progressives and RenewEurope are attempting to create an environmental package which contains many areas of spending that are not directly connected to the environment. Green washing will not solve anything.”

Fellow Irish GUE/NGL MEP Mick Wallace said, “Backroom deals were done between the three big groups. Lots of nice talk about farm to fork, biodiversity strategy, the green deal. They've all been thrown to the wind. This is not democracy!”

Nevertheless, not all MEPs from the three biggest groups are singing from the same hymn sheet.

Belgian S&D deputy Marc Tarabella said that he will be voting against the new CAP, adding, “This text is an aberration. It misses all of its goals. This is a CAP which is not environmental, not social, which institutionalises dumping and which goes against the objective of food sovereignty. This is unacceptable!”

Dutch S&D colleague Lara Wolters said she would also be voting against the CAP compromise, adding, “Any CAP that is not in line with the Green Deal is a deal-breaker.”

Belgian S&D member Maria Arena also said that she will vote against the compromises and the Commission's CAP proposal, adding, "The text falls short of reaching the goals of the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity [strategies]."

Greenpeace EU said in a statement that the leadership of Renew Europe and S&D had done a “dirty deal with the EPP to support factory farming.”

“We're asking MEPs to Vote AM1147 to scrap the CAP and start over, backing small farms, nature and healthy diets.”

Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, said in a statement, “The CAP now pushes a food system that hurts small-scale farmers, destroys nature and puts us at risk of more pandemics."

"To rise from the ashes of the Coronavirus crisis, we must support farmers in producing healthy food in a way that respects nature – and stop just blindly bankrolling the biggest landowners. The EU must scrap the CAP and replace it with a system that protects small-scale farmers, provides healthy food for all and has a safe relationship with nature.”

Compassion in World Farming EU said, "Today MEPs are voting on amendments to the EU farm subsidies scheme, which were fast-tracked through dirty political shenanigans. This scam is worthy of an episode of House of Cards, not of the house of European democracy."

In response to a tweet from Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, offering people the chance to catch up on Tuesday morning’s plenary debate on the CAP reform, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said, “Don't bother. It's depressing. Real debates allow elected representatives to question what other parliamentarians say. This didn't happen today.”

In an earlier tweet, Flanagan also appealed to his fellow Irish MEP, EPP deputy Maria Walsh, saying, “Please listen Maria Walsh, reject this abomination and support Amendment 1127. Our very existence is at stake.”

Maria Walsh, for her part, responded to her CAP-related messages on Twitter by saying, “Thank you for your posts re: CAP. I am working with my colleagues, I hear the call for change. I too see the environmental, financial and social demands in our farming sector. We will take a strong position to protect our active family farms, our young farmers and our communities.”

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