This week: EURACTIV gives a recap on what to expect from the so-called “super-trilogue” on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, discussing what is on the menu for the meeting and the main remaining sticking points in negotiations
The EU’s agrifood sector is following the outcomes of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) super trilogue with bated breath, although the road ahead is still uphill.
In this highly unusual Agrifood brief, we’re called to carry out an extremely arduous task: talking about something that it is happening as we write.
Many expectations rest on this ‘super trilogue’, the brainchild of the Portuguese presidency, which is gathering all three of the main Parliament’s rapporteurs on the CAP dossier and the Portuguese presidency around the same table.
The hope is to settle some of the remaining sticking points with a view of reaching the sorely sought-after agreement by May.
This timeline is crucial and the clock is ticking, as Portuguese agricultural minister Maria do Ceu Antunes reminded journalists at a press conference after the EU Agrifish Council on Tuesday (23 March).
The super meeting will close approximately at 7 pm on Friday (26 March) and a press conference has been convened at 7.30, shortly after the publication of these lines.
During the week, the EU’s agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski offered an optimistic look at the state of negotiations, reiterating that the working atmosphere between negotiators seemed “very good”.
“And I am confident that we will be able to present a final deal in May with a very good outcome for the CAP,” he said.
But despite the optimism shown by some quarters on the eve of the super trilogue, a number of sticking points remain, putting into question whether negotiators will be able to wrap up the CAP.
Negotiators are still wide apart on a number of cornerstone issues as crunch time on CAP talks rapidly approaches. Which ones? It is enough to look at the menu of the meeting to have a handle on this.
As a starter, one of the main bones of contention has been put on the agenda: the new delivery model.
As is no secret, the Commission’s proposal to shifting the CAP to make payments correlated with performance. This is based on nine objectives that need to be pursued by member states together with a set of common output and result indicators.
The assessment of farmers’ performance proposed by the Commission is considered cumbersome by the Parliament as it could lead to unnecessary burdens on national administration.
During the negotiations, MEPs tried to keep performance and compliance as two different, but complementary, key goals in a bid to ease the red tape on performance monitoring.
The Portuguese presidency has proposed a 2-year performance framework to meet the requests of MEPs, with the suspension of payments that can only be done every second year following the performance review, although performance is monitored every year.
The main course to be sampled by the negotiators is a mixed bag, featuring discussions on horizontal regulation and strategic plans.
The tricky definition of active/genuine farmer was the house speciality, a crucial step towards better and fairer distribution of direct payments.
This definition is one of the most controversial pending issues for promoting efficient spending in the next CAP, as it defines access to funding.
The problem arose since in the past money often did not go to those who actually farm the land, but rather to (usually wealthy) land-owners.
The same goes with other definitions, such as what makes a young farmer, a small farmer or a new farmer.
For dessert, negotiators were treated to the exception crisis measure and other outstanding points in the Common Market Organisation (CMO) file, washed down with all the wine issues, including digital labelling, the authorisation of American grapes and the duration of the authorisation scheme for vine plantings until 2045.
Time will tell to see how well this heavy meal went down with negotiators. It seems unlikely, however, they have managed to eat up the feast that was on the table.
(G.F and N.F)
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Don’t miss: EURACTIV’s Special Report on ‘Sustainable farming ambitions: between the CAP and the Green Deal’, where the EURACTIV network takes a closer look at the relationship between the Green Deal and the CAP across seven different member states as the EU approaches a crucial moment in the final talks on the CAP reform.
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