Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Small-scale farmers struggle for EU funds

While large EU states are scrapping over how to get more environmental bang for the EU's agricultural buck, in the southeast corner of the EU, small-scale farming – which contributes the most to biodiversity – is not getting the support it needs.

This is the initial conclusion of a series of studies jointly realised by the WWF and the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism and funded by the Dutch government that were presented to European Commission on Thursday (15 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Traditional farmers in Bulgaria and Romania often find it difficult to access EU funds (Photo: European Commission)

The EU has made some €2.6 billion available for supporting rural development and the environment in Bulgaria and Romania up to 2013, but not much of this finds its way to subsistence farmers, according to the investigation.

There are currently 4 million subsistence farmers in Romania with less than 2 hectares of land that are not eligible for any kind of support.

In Bulgaria, there are 139,00 semi-subsistence farmers, of which only 30 percent are eligible for area-based payments.

"[These farmers] make a significant contribution to securing environmental benefits and services, from biodiversity to drinking water and flood management," said Yanka Kazakova of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

In the Danube-Carpathian region, many local species and their characteristic habitats depend upon continued good management of small farms to sustain diversity.

This sort of farming depends on low-input farming practices and tend to be a more environmentally friendly form of agriculture than its industrialised cousin.

The highest concentration of well-maintained high nature value areas is in the countries of Central and South Eastern Europe, largely due to the traditional farming practices that remain in use. In Bulgaria, roughly one-third of the farmland is considered of high nature value.

EU agricultural support is supposed to help precisely this sort of farming, but instead is mostly directed at large landowners and agribusiness.

The WWF studies found that the basic problem is the focus on the economic viability of farms – effectively disqualifying the subsistence and semi-subsistence farms.

The investigation also found that although EU funding programmes include measures for supporting high nature value farmland, many farmers cannot apply for these or indeed any support as their land is not officially considered as agricultural land, although it may be rich in biodiversity.

Another problem plaguing many areas of the region is unclear land tenure. As a result, farmers can often apply only for funds for considerably less land than they actually use.

"The fact that high nature value farmland payments exist at all in these rural development programmes is noteworthy," Ms Kazakova said. "Now they just need to be targeted more effectively."

"It is essential that EU as well as national policy makers take into account not only economic but also environmental and social benefits of EU funding programmes," she added.

Luxembourg tax scandal may prompt EU action

An investigation into Luxembourg's tax regime has uncovered how the Italian mafia, the Russian underworld, and billionaires attempt to stash away their wealth. The European Commission has put itself on standby amid suggestions changes to EU law may be needed.

Investigation

Portugal vs Germany clash on EU corporate tax avoidance

Portugal's taking over the EU presidency puts the tax transparency law for corporations - which has been fought over for years - to a vote in the Council of Ministers. The resistance of the German government has failed.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us