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13th Apr 2024

MEPs blame governments for impasse on farm policy reform

  • €278 billion is meant to be spent on the EU's common agricultural policy (Photo: Andrew Stawarz)

Governments are putting at risk plans to reform the EU's common agriculture policy (CAP) by refusing to budget in negotiations, the European Parliament said Tuesday (4 June).

Italian Socialist deputy Paolo De Castro, who chairs the assembly's agriculture committee, warned that "if the current stalemate on essential elements of the reform continues, negotiations under the Irish presidency could collapse."

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EU lawmakers are attempting the first overhaul of the CAP since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty which gave parliament equal powers with governments.

But governments are reluctant to move from their position that a total of €278 billion should be allocated to CAP spending in the next seven year EU budget framework, over 35 percent of the bloc's total spending.

Referring to this, De Castro commented that "council needs to accept that parliament has equal political power and we're offering maximum flexibility."

The parliament team added that they had to wait more than three months to be sent the figures for the breakdown of rural development funding agreed by governments in February.

The negotiations focus on four legislative files overhauling the CAP, ranging from direct subsidy payments to farmers and rural development, to the organisation of individual markets for agricultural products.

A total of 24 trialogue meetings between MEPs, ministers and the European Commission have already taken place since negotiations began in April, with further sessions expected every day this week next week. The impasse also raises the prospect of a last-minute deal, with one contact telling this website that "agriculture and fisheries guys like their long nights".

MEPs claim that an agreement needs to be reached before the end of the Irish EU Presidency on 30 June to allow the new regime to be put into law by January 2014, when the new EU budget cycle starts. Farming leaders have voiced concern that failure to reach a swift deal could lead to years of delay.

Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, a Portuguese centre-left deputy, commented that member states were treating the February budget deal as "sacrosanct" and that there should be "no taboo issues" in the talks.

However, he indicated that the two parties were close to agreement on direct payments, small scale farming, and measures to increase environmental protection.

There is also disagreement on the amount of money that can be transferred between the direct farm payments and rural development headings. MEPs want to limit the flexibility to 10 percent transfer of the total envelope, while ministers would allow countries to switch up to 25 percent between the two pots.

An Irish Presidency source said there was "determination by everybody to reach an agreement," adding that "flexibility is the key word".

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