French MEP: When it comes to the environment, the future CAP is regressive

"Today, we no longer question the need to abolish plant protection products. [...] Perhaps, it was the result of the European elections that have increased this awareness," said the French MEP Eric Andrieu (S & D)

This article is part of our special report The environment in the new CAP.

In an interview with EURACTIV France, French MEP and vice-chair of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, Eric Andrieu, spoke about the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), highlighting its lack of environmental provisions.

Eric Andrieu has been an MEP since 2012. The French socialist was elected vice-chair of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group following the European elections.

In the past legislature, Andrieu has been an active member in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

In your previous term as MEP, you were a member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Does the CAP reform you have been working on envisage a ‘greener’ Common Agricultural Policy for the Union?

The problem with greening is that we are now in the middle of the process.

With the current CAP, 30% of the second pillar is reserved for greening. In the proposal for the future CAP on which we worked before the European elections, the strategic plants that will be presented by the EU member states, mainly contain ‘greening’ provisions.

Thus, subsidies for so-called ‘eco-schemes’ need to set up by the states for farmers who commit to environmentally-friendly practices. However, this tool remains unclear as no real definition or minimum threshold have yet been decided. And each country will decide how to allocate funds…

There is also the issue of areas that are of ecological interest.  For farmers to benefit from support to go ‘green’, they had to set aside 5% of their hectares on which they had not used chemical inputs, to be used for ponds, hedgerows, fallows, etc.

Unfortunately, the eligibility criterion has now been deleted, which is nonsense.

Currently, when it comes to the environment and biodiversity, the project for a future CAP project is regressive in comparison to the CAP presently in force.

What changes are needed to ensure the CAP genuinely benefits the environment?

We need more funds to support so-called ‘eco-schemes’. Today, only 20% of the budget goes towards these schemes according to the last compromises, which is very insufficient. Instead, it should represent between 30 and 50%.

There is also a lack of animal welfare measures or standards when it comes to factory farming practices. I do not agree with downplaying animal welfare standards, which are fundamental!

We also need to set clear targets for reducing pesticide use, something which is not currently in the CAP report.

On the issue of pesticides, will the new CAP reduce their use?

When it comes to pesticides, the CAP’s requirements are not sufficiently precise to reduce the use of chemical inputs in agricultural activities, which is necessary!

We are now working with the four pro-European political groups in the European Parliament. We aim to find a political agreement so that we can work together with the newly-elected MEPs. We have discussed the issue of pesticides again, and there seems to be an agreement between the different political families, who support reducing the use of chemical inputs.

The Socialists & Democrats group (S&D) supports the abolishment of agricultural inputs by 2030.

Today, we no longer question the need to abolish plant protection products. And it seems that members of the European Peoples’ Party (EPP) are highly aware of the need to remove synthetic pesticides from the market.

Perhaps it was the result of the European elections that have increased this awareness.

Will these negotiations between the different groups result in a request from the European Parliament to review the reform proposal of the CAP? 

In these negotiations, the different groups all have their positions.

The liberal group Renew Europe is reluctant to request the European Commission to table a new proposal or to start work in the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee from scratch.

The Greens and the S&D group would agree to request a new proposal.

Finally, the EPP appears to support continuing the work already started.

In parallel with the CAP reform, the European Commission continues to negotiate free trade agreements that will have a definite impact on the agricultural sector. How can the two be reconciled?

The candidate to head the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will have to answer this question as a priority when she requests the European Parliament for its support. We will ask her about the issue of the ‘exception of European agriculture’, which is a subject that needs to be central to the next European executive.

On this issue, we will address the question of what civilisation model we need to adopt. Agriculture cannot be linked to other sectors of economic activity. In Europe, we need to have a real debate on this issue. When negotiating free trade agreements, agriculture has always been a variable to be adjusted, but this is no longer possible.

Today, with a few exceptions, Europeans eat meat from herds fed with GMOs, which are nonetheless banned in Europe!

You are the only French MEP to have participated in negotiations about the new CAP during the Parliament’s previous mandate. Could this have an impact on the points defended by France?

The French voiced their concerns in the European elections. In the new Parliament, four French MEPs will be sitting on the AGRI committee, and two others from Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, which I am setting aside.

I think that France will have less influence. I don’t think we will have any positions as vice-presidents or coordinators.

Although we will lose some de facto influence, we will still try to hold our ground.

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