Financial EU summit reopens debate on reducing agricultural subsidies

Photo by Joao Marcelo Marques on Unsplash

On Thursday the heads of government of the EU countries will meet in Brussels to discuss the new multi-year budget. In view of the major differences of opinion, this inserted financial summit will not lead to an agreement or an agreement, but only to a political agreement on the need to modernize the EU package of tasks.

The essence of the problem is that several countries and political leaders recognize that the working methods and tasks of the 75-year-old European Union must be "modernized" and that the EU must take on more and different tasks. Climate policy, the Green Deal and new energy, better monitoring of the external borders, fair distribution of the reception of asylum seekers and modern technology policy are examples of this.

But since most EU countries do not want to increase their annual contribution to Brussels, there is no money for such desired new tasks, and there will therefore have to be cut back on the current tasks. Why does the EU still have to do what they have been doing for decades? is the question. European agricultural policy, which accounts for more than a third of the total budget at EUR 59 billion per year, is an important part of this. The Netherlands is one of the countries that believes that the budget for the common agricultural policy CAP can be reduced by a quarter.

It was precisely this week that the generally well-informed magazine Politico revealed that there has been a struggle for a long time behind the scenes of Brussels up to the highest level for these agricultural subsidies. The chief official of the Agriculture department, the director general, objects that the assessment and award of agricultural subsidies is made subordinate to a too rapid transformation to the Green Deal. This appears from leaked internal mails.

The highest agri-civil servant in Brussels believes that the current agricultural subsidies cannot be stopped or reduced now. He would have advocated not stopping, but reducing speed first. It is to be expected that especially France and Poland will oppose a reduction in agricultural subsidies. In the compromise proposal presented by EU President Charles Michel, a small part of the current subsidy is being transformed into direct 'income support' for farmers, and less money for large-scale agri-groups.

Proposals are expected by the end of March on the 'peasant to plate' strategy and the 2030 biodiversity strategy. The EU member states will soon have to include in their CAP plans that at least 40% of the expenditure contributes to the climate objectives. The European Climate Act will anchor this, so the new CAP plans will in any case be tested against climate policy. It is therefore not to be expected that amounts will be mentioned in Brussels for a reduction in agricultural expenditure.

During the special EU summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will hold on to his desire not to let the European budget and Dutch contributions grow in the coming days. Even if he were to receive a more modern EU budget in exchange, Prime Minister Mark Rutte would not want the payment to grow.

Rutte said that on Tuesday evening in a debate in the parliament in The Hague. The proposal recently made by EU president Charles Michel must be taken off the table anyway, says Rutte. The Dutch commitment not to increase the European budget is, according to Rutte, only a means to ensure that in ieder the Netherlands does not pay more than it already does.

The European Commission wants to increase the EU budget to 1.11 percent of the economy of all EU countries combined. EU president Charles Michel bets on a budget of 1.074 percent with a compromise proposal. For the Netherlands that means an increase of 2 billion euros. Rutte leaves room for an increase in the budget, as long as that does not mean that the Netherlands will pay more net.