This article is part of our special report Developing Single Market resilience.
Although member states will play a greater role in the future EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it will not lose its ‘Common’ dimension as the Commission will continue to watch over the implementation of national plans, Commissioner Phil Hogan told EURACTIV.com in an interview.
Phil Hogan is the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. He spoke to EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna.
Are the concerns about a possible re-nationalisation of the next CAP justified?
No, there is no basis to such claims and the reality is that the Commission’s legislative proposal for the future CAP will in no way, shape or form lead to a re-nationalisation of the CAP.
The Commission will always guarantee that the CAP remains a truly common and truly European policy.
In our proposal, we are simply finding a more balanced and effective approach, designed to achieve more results while making the policy simpler. This will bring significant benefits to both our farmers and our citizens.
A common policy will be maintained at the EU level, but member states will be given far more flexibility to better target their measures in line with their needs.
But will the rebalanced responsibilities between the EU and the member states cause CAP to lose the C (Common), as many fear?
The ‘C’ in the CAP will be maintained by the requirement on member states to undertake a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and needs analysis, engage with stakeholders and civil society and submit a draft plan to the Commission. The Commission will check the draft plan by reference to the criteria explicitly set down in the Regulation before approving it.
Each member state must design a CAP Strategic Plan, explaining how they will meet nine key EU level objectives (three economic, three social, three environmental). Within this common framework, member states will design intervention strategies, using the EU-level menu of tools and adapting them to their particular circumstances.
The Commission will maintain a strong watchdog role, working closely with the member states to make sure their plans are on track, and taking remedial action where necessary.
What do you answer to the critical voices that the next CAP will increase controls and red tape, resulting only in CAP being rejected by the farmers at the end?
Simplification has been my number one priority since being appointed a Commissioner, and we have already succeeded in implementing a significant number of very important simplifying changes to the CAP.
As I took office, we screened the whole agricultural acquis. We received 1,500 simplification proposals from the member states and other EU institutions and stakeholders and, soon afterwards, we amended a number of provisions to benefit farmers.
Greening was identified as the biggest source of complexity in the CAP, as confirmed in the public consultation on the future CAP. In 2016, we launched the greening review which resulted in 2017 in the amendment of certain rules, especially for crop diversification and EFA.
Having advanced as much as possible without re-opening the basic act, the proposal for the future CAP now offers the chance to go further and tackle the issue in a systemic way.
I am convinced that the new delivery model of the future CAP will deliver further simplification by shifting focus from rules and compliance to results and performance. The fact is that not alone can the move from a rules-based, compliance-based approach bring real simplification for farmers and administrators alike, but it is essential that we break away from such an approach if we are to achieve the kind of simplification that everybody demands.
Farmers will have improved access to impartial farm advice, assistance in their applications for support, and reporting requirements for administrations will be streamlined.
The use of new technologies will simplify, speed-up and automate many of the administrative procedures. Freely available earth observation data captured by the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and other innovative technologies provide significant information on agricultural activities across the EU.
Using these technologies will modernise the administration, monitoring and overall operation of the CAP and have multiple benefits for farmers and member states’ administrations.
The future CAP will use a system based on systematic, year-round remote observation of agricultural activities. This will serve the dual purpose of ensuring, at a comparatively low cost, the availability of EU-wide comprehensive and comparable data for policy monitoring purposes as well as replacing classical control methods like on-the-spot checks, which should reduce the administrative burden and the control burden on farmers.
What makes the last-minute deal on unfair trade practices (UTPs) so important and what made it so hard to finalise?
The directive to outlaw certain UTPs is hugely significant because it is the first time laws have been made at European level to strengthen the position of the farmer in the EU food supply chain.
This represents a major win for European farmers who will now be better protected against unfair trading practices.
It reflects a Europe that protects and it will contribute to an environment where farmers are in a stronger position to claim their fair part of the value added in the chain.
The profession of being a farmer will be more attractive for it.
Is it the main achievement of this legislative term when it comes to the agrifood sector, according to you?
This is one of many significant achievements for the agri-food sector during this mandate. Others include:
- prudent market management and €1 billion in additional support for EU farmers during the 2015/2016 markets crisis arising from the Russian ban;
- new rules governing organic production and the operation of the School Schemes;
- the EU’s impressive global trade profile in agri-food, including the conclusion of the Canada and Japan trade deals;
- the Cork 2.0 Declaration (“A better life in rural areas”) elaborating a 10 point plan for EU rural development policy in the 2020s;
- an updated EU bioeconomy strategy;
- the establishment of the Task Force Rural Africa to improve EU-Africa cooperation in the field of agriculture and sustainable, responsible rural investment.
Indeed, the new EU bioeconomy strategy of the Commission has put food and nutrition security as one of its main objectives, but how can this new frontier bring benefits to the food sector in the coming 5 years?
The bioeconomy holds enormous potential for the economic and environmental development of our rural areas. There are fantastic projects already happening all across Europe. Now we must build on this foundation and so much more and the revised EU Bioeconomy Strategy points the way forward.
For the next EU budget, spanning the years 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing €100 billion for Horizon Europe – the most ambitious research and innovation programme ever.
Of this, €10 billion is dedicated to the primary sectors including the bioeconomy: a real breakthrough.
My own portfolio of agriculture and rural development will also support the bioeconomy more strongly than ever before.
One key element of the strategy is to make innovative solutions and relevant research more widely available to final users: in other words, farmers, foresters, rural businesses and the rural population at large.
We estimate that bio-based industries can generate up to one million new jobs by 2030.
At the same time, the bioeconomy will make a major contribution to meeting our renewable energy targets of 27% in 2020 and 32% in 2030.
But there is still much work to do. At the national level, despite the fact that the number of national bioeconomy strategies has been increasing, many member states still remain without one.
It is imperative that all member states develop a clear bioeconomy strategy which is coherent with the EU’s objectives.
The Commission’s proposal for the future CAP will be helpful in this context. Each member state will be tasked with drawing up a CAP Strategic Plan to outline their targets and expected results according to nine key objectives, and the bioeconomy is one of these.