MEPs can unpick EU farm subsidies deal
By Benjamin Fox
Agreement on EU farm subsidies remains far from clear, after the European Commission Monday (11 February) said that the European Parliament could unpick the deal reached last week at the EU budget summit.
Leaders went away from the summit with figures detailing how much money they could expect to receive from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during the 2014-2020 period covered by the next multi-annual financial framework (MFF).
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But Commission spokesman Roger Waite indicated that MEPs could derail the deal. Waite described the figures as "indicative" and "not legally binding", adding that a deal on CAP subsidies would "only finish when there is political agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament."
Although CAP spending suffered an 11 percent in last week's EU budget cut it was spared further cuts from those proposed by European Council President Herman van Rompuy in November.
With just over €373 billion, and €278 billion in direct subsidies, it remains the largest single area of spending by Brussels. Meanwhile, €85 billion has been allocated to Pillar two of the CAP which focuses on environmental protection.
Under the Lisbon treaty, the parliament has co-decision powers with government ministers on CAP reform. Last month, MEPs on the agriculture committee voted on four pieces of legislation to reform the CAP. The four files form part of the around 70 legislative acts covered by the MFF.
The committee also backed European Commission proposals to put a €300,000 cap on farm subsidies to Europe's wealthiest landowners, alongside drastic cuts in payments worth more than €150,000. For their part, leaders proposed that governments should be able to decide whether or not to impose the cap.
Talks on the reform of the CAP between MEPs and ministers remain at an early stage. and will now start in earnest in the coming weeks.
It is also far from clear that MEPs will back the €959.8 billion overall budget deal reached by EU leaders. Following the announcement of the deal, the leaders of the Parliament's four largest political groups signed a joint statement saying their groups "cannot accept today's deal in the European Council as it is" and adding that "the real negotiations will start now with the European Parliament."
The parliament is expected to vote on whether to accept the summit deal during its April plenary session in Strasbourg.