|A European Commissioner has for the first time suggested the possibility of revising the ambitious targets of the new EU food policy at a later stage, if anything goes wrong and particularly if food security is threatened.
Speaking before the French Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski made an unexpected comment about the thorny issue of targets in the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy.
“If it were to become apparent that the achievement of the objectives set out in this strategy threatens both food safety and the competitiveness of our agriculture, then these objectives would have to be revised,” he said.
The Polish Commissioner focused in particular on the aspects of food security and farmers’ competitiveness, adding that, as a strategic matter, the F2F should also ensure and maintain both.
“I believe that I have won my case here and there will be a follow-up to this strategy with regard to food security and the competitiveness of our agricultural sector,” he said.
With a single remark, Wojciechowski reaffirmed the primacy of food security over environmental aspects when it comes to agriculture, making clear as well that the F2F may not be necessarily a one-way trip.
Just two weeks ago, the Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius argued the contrary, saying that food security is no longer a major concern for the EU.
For the young Lithuanian, other challenges are dominating the European food system, such as food waste, overconsumption, obesity and its overall environmental footprint.
This difference of opinion shows that not everyone in Ursula von der Leyen’s College is on the same page and that it would be useless to deny conflicting interests or tensions in the Commission’s services.
As for any Commission initiatives with impact on various policy areas, the F2F has been prepared based on cooperation and consultation among all Commission services concerned, a source at EU executive has recently told EURACTIV.
However, it did not go unnoticed that Wojciechowski himself was not invited to the house-warming party of the Farm to Fork – the launching press conference – although he represents a directorate-general, the DG AGRI, which had played a major role in drafting the strategy.
With his comment, Wojciechowski may have tipped his hand ahead of time, showing that food security is expected to be DG AGRI’s red line in the discussion on F2F’s delivery.
Indeed, the focus is now moving on how the F2F can be practically implemented after the debate over the targets has inevitably prompted extensive attention so far.
On this very point, the Commission criticised once again the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on a two-year temporary scheme before the next EU farming subsidies programme starts.
The Commission believes that a one-year Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) divide would fit better in the context of both F2F implementation and ‘Next Generation EU’, the Commission’s €750 billion Recovery Fund aimed at reviving and transforming the bloc’s economy.
“We also have to remind both Parliament and the Council that one of the options that remain on the table is to withdraw the proposal,” a Commission representative told MEPs in the Agriculture Committee on Monday (6 July).
The fact that the Commission does not seem to give in on this matter sounded like a threat to MEPs, who didn’t look willing to relinquish their lawmaking independence for the sake of speeding up the implementation of the F2F.