Portugal is optimistic an agreement can soon be reached on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the country’s Agriculture Minister Maria do Céu Antunes told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.
The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union recently called a joint negotiation meeting – dubbed a super trilogue – with all three negotiators in the European Parliament to seek a breakthrough in the CAP talks.
Speaking on the weekly EURACTIV’s Agrifood podcast on the eve of the negotiation, Antunes reiterated her country’s commitment to pushing through CAP reform in a bid to provide predictability to European farmers.
“I believe that this month is crucial in the planning of the negotiation process as we are now approaching the agreement building phase,” she said.
The goal remains to conclude the CAP negotiations under the Portuguese presidency. That required amending the timetable of talks in a bid to reach an agreement in the coming months.
According to Antunes, this would allow implementation of the CAP strategic plans in each member state from January 2023.
“It will be important at this stage to give a boost of the negotiation through the super trilogue that will enable a comprehensive political review of the three regulations that constitute the CAP,” she said.
Antunes said the super trilogue initiative had received a warm welcome during her meetings at the beginning of the month with the chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, Norbert Lins, and with EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski.
Antunes dismissed the idea that insurmountable difficulties had arisen during the reform negotiations.
“The process is complex and takes time, as well as a lot of technical and political work,” she said.
But the minister said the conditions are now in place to move forward in balancing the stances of the three main actors.
“Commitments are required by each part and this will give a final outcome that will certainly result in a good agreement for European agriculture,” she said.
Antunes said the presidency’s decision to publish the four-column negotiators’ document was not a first and pointed to the publication of text referring to provisional agreements in the past.
“What is new now is the decision to provide regular information on the state of the negotiation in a transparent manner,” she added.
Social conditionality and strategic plan
A major outstanding issue in the talks remains the inclusion of social conditionality in the reform of the EU’s farming subsidies programme.
Antunes recalled that social conditionality was not part of the Commission’s original proposal, nor was it in the mandate that the Portuguese presidency received from the EU ministers.
“However, I consider it an extremely important issue under the social pillar of the Portuguese presidency priorities. We are working on it,” she said.
A number of variables need to be checked, such as the measure’s legal basis in Europe and matters relating to control validity, in order to see what margin are present in the proposals that might include the social dimension in the CAP.
At the last trilogue on the strategic plans on 10 March, the presidency presented a package of proposals to move forward commitments referring to the new performance model and on direct payments, Antunes added.
The minister said she was optimistic that after this set of proposals positions could be aligned, adding that she believes in the commitment of both Council and Parliament to make progress in the negotiations.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]