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15th Jul 2018

EU milk-for-migrants scheme not ready before 2016

  • The Commission promised in September to buy around €30 million worth of dairy products for refugees, but is still working on the plan's details (Photo: European Commission DG ECHO)

An EU plan to buy dairy products from economically struggling European farmers and distribute them to refugees will not be implemented before the year 2015 ends, a spokesperson for the European Commission told this website Monday (21 December).

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan announced the plan in September, as part of an aid package for the EU's agriculture sector. He promised the Commission would buy around €30 million worth of milk products and give them to refugees.

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But three months later the programme has not started yet.

Replying to an e-mail with basic questions about the scheme – such as how the Commission will select which farmers to buy from, and in what countries the dairy products will be distributed – a spokesperson for the European Commission did not give any concrete answers.

“The details of this measure are currently being worked on. We will know more in early 2016,” the spokesperson said.

Her comments came well over a month after Commission spokesperson Daniel Rosario told this website on 12 November the plan was “still being worked out”, but was “being finalised”.

The plan was a rather novel idea for the Commission, to link two policy areas usually not connected: agriculture policy and migration.

EU commission Jyrki Katainen said in early September, filling in for his colleague responsible for agriculture, Phil Hogan, that both the economic troubles of the farmers and the refugee crisis “must be addressed at a European level”.

The Finnish commissioner spoke of “synergies between responses” and a “strong will within the commission that those two issues should be linked together as well as possible”.

Eight days later, Hogan presented the €500 million agriculture aid package. From a budgetary perspective, the €30 million milk-to-migrants plan was a small part of the package.

In his presentation of the plans, Hogan reminded agriculture ministers that considering the refugee crisis, €500 million for the farm sector was “a decisive and robust response”.

“In identifying appropriate measures for the benefit of farmers, we cannot ignore the impact of this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, and we must see how our actions to stabilise the market can contribute to our solidarity efforts,” said Hogan.

"For this reason, I intend to ensure that a measure of around €30 million will be devoted to ensuring that EU milk will made available for the nutritional needs of refugees, in particular those displaced in difficult conditions in our neighbouring countries," the Irish politician added.

He spoke as already half a million people had reached Europe up to September that year – since then the figure has almost doubled.

At the time, food supply to refugees from Syria was particularly vulnerable. Around 229,000 of them at a camp in Jordan were cut off from food aid that month.

According to the World Food Programme, it needs to raise $25 million (€23 million) every week “to meet the basic food needs of people affected by the conflict”.

The €30 million may be small in comparison to what is needed, and compared to the €200 million top-up in humanitarian aid the EU also announced in September. But at the current average milk price the Commission could buy almost ten million litres of milk for the refugees.

Agriculture ministers accept Commission aid plan

Most of the EU's agriculture ministers were cautiously optimistic about the EU Commission's €500 million aid package for Europe's struggling farmers, after receiving additional details.

EU still not delivering on milk-for-migrants

The European Commission floated the idea in September of buying dairy products from struggling European farmers to distribute to refugees, but the scheme is not yet up and running.

Opinion

Fate of EU refugee deal hangs in the balance

Europe's choice is between unplanned, reactive, fragmented, ineffective migration policy and planned, regulated, documented movements of people, writes International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband.

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