In a press conference on Thursday (21 January), two of Parliament’s negotiators told reporters that the 4-column documents for the CAP dossiers will now feature a fifth column.
For EU geeks, this 5-column document sounds like the EU version of a unicorn.
Why is this fifth column though? Well, it contains some suggestions proposed by the Commission in order to match the farming subsidies programme and the EU’s Green Deal objectives, which were unveiled after issuing the CAP proposal.
This is, in many respects, fair enough, as the EU’s new food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), has completely reshaped the environmental and climate ambition when it comes to the European agricultural policy.
However, it also poses some problems in terms of the Commission’s scope for action in the legislative process.
As the holder of the competence to initiate legislation, the EU executive plays the role of a facilitator during trilogues, but the final decision on the text rests with the two co-legislators.
So, theoretically, co-legislators – that is, Parliament and Council – negotiate beneath the gaze of the Commission, who should act as an honest broker.
“But in practice, the Commission has a lot of lawyers and experts, and they know better the strategic plans and the articles that are linked to the proposals. So, we really depend on the cooperation with the Commission,” said Ulrike Müller, one of the MEP who is negotiating on behalf of the Parliament.
The meddling of the Commission is generally welcomed as they can provide negotiators with the relevant expertise on the matter.
However, giving the Commission a new column in which they are able to strongly suggest an update – which could be seen as ‘amending’ – to its own proposal places them closer to the level of the two lawmakers.
For German MEP Peter Jahr, another Parliamentary negotiator in the CAP talks, this interference is unusual but also honest, as the lawmakers are facing new conditions and new requirements emerged from the F2F.
“What makes me angry is that they don’t think we are able to deal with it. We’re a part of the society too,” he said.
This is a direct result of the particular situation caused by the timing of the CAP proposal, which is leading the Commission to weigh in on the matter.
The 5-column clover is the most recent in a long series of the Commission’s meddling, starting with the threat to withdraw the legislative proposal, which irked both ministers and MEPs, and continuing with the suggestions for environmentally friendly practices that could receive EU funding in the CAP.
“But as long as we reach an agreement, it’s okay. So yes, it’s unusual. It’s very honest. And it’s also a bit annoying. Maybe that’s all I can say,” Jahr concluded.
Which means that if this 5-column clover could bring them luck with CAP, negotiators are going to pick it.