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7th Mar 2021

Green Deal

Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

  • Green MEPs, climate activists and NGOs are calling on the EU Commission to withdraw the reform of the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy, arguing it is not compatible with the Green Deal (Photo: Pixabay)

The leading figure of the European Green Deal, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, is "disappointed" about how member states and MEPs are managing the reform and greening of the bloc's flagship farming policy.

"I have to honestly admit that I was very disappointed. Disappointed that the European Council and the European Parliament are sticking to an agricultural policy that is not sustainable [and] that cannot continue like this," Timmermans told German broadcaster Tagesschau last week.

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After EU agriculture ministers and MEPs reached a negotiating position, the trialogue endgame kicked off last week.

The aim now is to find a compromise on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) for 2012-2027, before the informal deadline set for the end of March.

Green MEPs, climate activists and civil society organisations are calling on the commission to withdraw the farming policy, arguing that the CAP proposal, as it stands, is not compatible with the Green Deal.

A group of NGOs has urged the EU executive to dump the proposal presented in 2018 and table a new one that truly supports farmers in the transition towards sustainable agriculture.

While Timmermans recently left the door open for a possible withdrawal, commission president Ursula von der Leyen has ruled out that option as she is convinced that the negotiations "can result in a new CAP that is fit for purpose."

"Timmermans referred [in an interview] to the possibility to withdraw the proposal but it does not mean, at this stage, that we are there," a commission spokesperson said on Friday (13 November).

"We are making all efforts to ensure that during the trialogue negotiations we bring the CAP in line with the Green Deal," she added.

The CAP, which accounts for over €350bn of the next seven-year budget, is based on two big strands of payments: direct payments to farmers, and support for rural development.

The plans of the EU Council and EU Parliament foresee that at least 20 and 30 percent, respectively, of direct payments to agriculture are linked to environmental requirements.

However, many member states and MEPs still prioritise the income transfer function of the CAP over the urgent need to reverse the loss of biodiversity and the need to reduce the sector's greenhouse-gas emissions.

According to Jabier Ruiz from WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Europe, "with such deplorable CAP positions from both council and parliament, the commission must use all their influence during the trialogues to steer the CAP closer to the Green Deal."

The CAP subsidises up to seven million farms across the EU, but its institutional architecture triggers uneven access to funds, since the payments are linked to the size of area farmed.

"Nowadays, 20 percent of farmers get 80 percent of European money. We can't go on like this. I have to insist that more money goes to the farmers and not just to the big farms," Timmermans also told Tagesschau.

For Timmermans, the CAP has to answer to "higher expectations" for climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

"The EU Green Deal implies difficult changes in every sector. The CAP should be able to support farmers in their transition," he tweeted, after trialogue talks started.

Following last-week's first trilogue covering all three legislative texts on the CAP reform, the next round of negotiations on each regulation will proceed separately - they are provisionally scheduled for 19 November (strategic plans regulation), for 2 December (common market organisation regulation), and for 4 December (financing and monitoring regulation).

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Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

For European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, the Common Agricultural Policy has to answer to "higher expectations" on climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

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