Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

'Robin Hood' measure in CAP seems doomed

  • The average EU farm size is highest in the Czech Republic, but varies greatly across member states - who have turned against a proposal to redistribute EU subsidies from big to small farms (Photo: Jan Fidler)

The national governments of the EU are mostly opposed to a proposal to redistribute farming subsidies from big to small farms, it emerged at a debate at the Brussels office of the Czech Republic on Tuesday (5 February).

According to Achim Irimescu, chairman of the special committee for agriculture during Romania's EU presidency, 23 of the 28 EU member states want the so-called 'capping' to be voluntary, rather than compulsory.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Irimescu said that capping would "definitely" be voluntary.

The idea, proposed by the European Commission last year, would see farmers' EU subsidies capped at €100,000.

Any subsidies the farmer would have received beyond that amount would be redistributed to smaller farmers in the same member state.

Additionally, the tranche of EU subsidies between €60,000 and €75,000 would be reduced by 25 percent; the tranche between €75,000 and 90,000 would be reduced by half; and the tranche between €90,000 and €100,000 would be reduced by 75 percent.

Here too, the savings would go to farmers with smaller holdings.

The capping plan is part of the commission's proposal for the EU's new common agricultural policy (CAP) for the next budgetary period of 2021-2027.

The new CAP will have to be approved by both the national governments and the European Parliament.

The commission's motivation was to respond to criticism from EU citizens that the farming subsidies should be used for small-scale farmers rather than what they see as big agri-business.

But opponents of the capping measure point out that in some agriculture sectors, it is very difficult to keep a small farm economically viable, and scaling up by merging farms is inevitable.

Cold War history

In former communist countries like the Czech Republic, the size of the farms is a result of collectivisation.

"The Czech Republic has the biggest farms by far in the European Union. We can't possibly expect a one-size fits all solution," said Jiri Sir, who is the Czech agriculture ministry's chief negotiator for the new CAP.

"We need the capping to be voluntary. If a member state wants to apply it, because they feel it is necessary, let's let them do it," added Sir.

The average area of farm holdings in the EU is around 16 hectares, but differs greatly across EU member states.

The average for the Czech Republic is 133 hectares, but for Cyprus only three.

German centre-right MEP Peter Jahr, member of the parliament's agriculture committee, also said he supported capping "on a voluntary basis".

Some of his colleagues have proposed amendments that scrap the measure entirely.

Sudden death

The commission has tried to introduce mandatory capping before, unsuccessfully.

"We have proposed it three or four times now. Each time it died a sudden death in the legislative process," said Rudolf Moegele, deputy director general at the commission's agriculture department.

"Of course, we have not proposed each time the same thing," he added.

Moegele said that making capping voluntary would be "maybe not the smartest move", because it would mean the critics of large farms receiving EU subsidies would feel they are not being heard.

"This will have impact on the way the CAP will be perceived by many people," said the commission civil servant.

"The consequence will be that it won't be understood. Europe will be seen as not taking [the criticism] seriously," he noted.

But he added that it was the national governments convening in the Council of the EU, and the European Parliament, who called the shots.

"We have to simply acknowledge that the legislators take the decisions. If they believe that is should be voluntary, or not at all in the legislation, at the end of the day the commission will not have the means to change that."

Analysis

Hogan's carrot: reform to soften CAP cuts

The European Commission is dangling the prospect to farmers of being able to dodge financial cuts in the upcoming EU budget – but only if national governments agree to a mandatory redistribution of subsidies.

EU auditors roast commission farming proposal

In a damning report, the Court of Auditors said the European Commission's long-term vision on agriculture in the EU was "not apparent". It also said that clear goals were missing from its CAP plan.

No breakthrough at EU budget summit

EU leaders failed to reach agreement on the EU's long-term budget, as richer states and poorer 'cohesion countries' locked horns. The impasse continues over how to fund the Brexit gap.

EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock

Cuts to innovation, space, neighbourhood and other programme-spending push down the latest budget proposal on the table of EU leaders. Rebates could stay on, to win the support of the net-payers for a deal.

Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote

A trade deal with Vietnam sailed through the European Parliament's international trade committee and after its embassy sent MEPs bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne over Christmas.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  2. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  3. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  4. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  5. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  6. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  7. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  8. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us