Wednesday 28 October 2020
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EU-Green Week: European parliament and ministers shape agricultural policy

Next week it will be 'Green Week' in Brussels and the European Union. This week, the European agriculture ministers as well as the Committee on Agriculture and the European Parliament are making important decisions about the new European common agricultural policy (CAP), or at least that is the intention.

Despite more than two years of preparatory negotiations, the LNV ministers and the political groups in the European Parliament still disagree on dozens of issues, with each other and with each other.

MEPs debate and vote on plans for reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP). This review should make the CAP more sustainable, stronger and more flexible. The package includes plans to strengthen mandatory climate and environmentally friendly practices, reduce payments to large farms, and release more money for smaller businesses and young farmers.

It is about how the EU will spend a total of 386.7 billion euros on farmers and rural areas between 2021 and 2027. Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday (with an extension to Wednesday), and the European Parliament will vote on many hundreds of directive amendments between Monday and Friday (with an extension to Friday evening).

As things stand, the last votes will probably not be evaluated until Friday afternoon around 5:30 pm. Some observers even consider it possible that the deliberations will not be concluded until the next plenary session, in November.

The political leaders of the three major EP groups said they had found a "guiding compromise" last week. Christian Democrats (EPP), Social Democrats (S&D) and Liberals (Renew) make up sixty percent of the 705 seats. But it is by no means certain whether their group discipline will work, because last week it appeared that the Agriculture Committee AGRI, the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) and the Environment Committee (ENVI) are still divided on the financing of the future course.

The source of much disunity is the question to what extent agriculture must comply with new climate and environmental regulations in the future. In agricultural circles the Green Deal is seen as a major culprit and bone of contention. Some see the current compromises in parliament and in the council of ministers as a first 'letting go' of the Green Deal criteria within the new CAP policy.

In addition, the 'compromise' of the three faction leaders is interpreted as a defeat for the S&D faction. According to opposition parties in Parliament, the Social Democrats have accepted the EPP and Renew's strategy "to bring in what is feasible now." The left-wing opposition blames the S&D for not adhering enough to the Green Deal's Environmental and Climate goals, and that the 'new' CAP tries to avoid much-needed sustainability.

A similar disagreement also still exists between the LNV ministers of the EU countries. The question is whether twenty percent of the current agricultural subsidies should be spent on 'organic' goals, or whether that should be thirty percent. And whether there should be a complete or partial ban on the use of chemical crop protection agents. And whether that should take effect immediately or only in a few years. The ministers are also not in agreement about what percentage of agricultural land should remain free for field edges for flowers and sprayers.

Once ministers and the European Parliament have adopted their own final positions, both parties still have to agree with each other, and then with the European Commission. The 'new' CAP will therefore probably not enter into force until 2023 at the earliest.

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