While negotiations on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform have not been concluded in Brussels, the German Bundestag, racing to complete work before national elections in September, has passed a legislative package to be implemented at the national level. EURACTIV Germany reports.
The laws are intended to regulate the distribution of CAP funds and administrative issues and set criteria for the so-called conditionality that farmers must fulfil to receive subsidies.
Now that the Bundestag passed the legislation last Thursday (10 June), it must be approved by the Bundesrat, the other chamber of the parliament representing Germany’s regional governments. The vote is expected for the last session before the summer break on 25 June.
However, CAP reform negotiations have not yet been concluded at the EU level.
Although the Portuguese EU Council Presidency convened a so-called ‘jumbo trilogue’ in an effort to reach an agreement on the remaining open points, the European Parliament and the bloc’s agriculture ministers failed to reach a compromise and the negotiations were pushed back to the end of this month.
Despite this delay, in view of the Bundestag’s upcoming recess and national elections set for 26 September, the time-pressured agriculture ministry aims “to complete the legislative process before the federal elections to prevent the laws from being subject to discontinuity,” an agriculture ministry spokeswoman told EURACTIV Germany.
According to the principle of discontinuity, the new government that takes over after the election must reintroduce laws that were not passed before the ballot.
The government’s tight timetable has already been criticised by the opposition.
“The federal government is taking away room for manoeuvre because laws are being passed in this country without the EU framework being in place,” liberal FDP’s agricultural policy spokesman Gero Hocker told EURACTIV Germany.
Meanwhile, Green MP Friedrich Ostendorff told the Bundestag debate on Thursday evening it was “very sobering for all of us, even after the laboriously successful agreement of the federal states, that minister Klöckner is standing on the brakes in Brussels and not fighting for this compromise.”
Future possible amendments still possible
However, the ministry and governing parties said they have found ways to leave room in the legislative package to accommodate possible future adjustments.
“Precisely because of the parallelism of national legislation and the trilogue talks, our three draft laws have been designed in such a way that the results of the trilogue can and will, if necessary, find their way into our regulation, for example, by way of ordinance,” said the ministry’s spokeswoman.
This way, the ministry could make direct amendments without involving the Bundestag, she pointed out.
“This then has the great advantage that, despite the Bundestag elections, the ministry is also able to react quickly to the different possibilities of the decision in Brussels and adapt accordingly,” Rainer Spiering, the agricultural policy spokesperson of the Social Democrats (SPD), who are partners in the coalition government, told EURACTIV Germany
Spiering said the draft legislation was based on an agreement reached by the agriculture ministers of the 16 German states in March this year, which overcame conflicts of interest between different regions.
“The fact that the Bundesrat has come together on such a difficult issue is very commendable,” said Spiering.
Opposition and interest groups remain critical
However, others remained more critical.
“The framework conditions currently under discussion are far from what would be necessary to stop species extinction, the impoverishment of ecosystems and the climate crisis,” warned Julian Bethke of the nature conservation organisation NABU.
The potential of peatlands for climate protection and more effective protection of grasslands should have been addressed, he added.
However, according to FDP’s Hocker, the planned measures for the eco-schemes are “almost entirely aimed at restricting production, but the use of precision farming technologies to protect the environment plays no role here.”
“This leaves unused opportunities to level the playing field for German farmers compared to the EU,” he added.
German Farmers’ Association President Joachim Rukwied called for improvement of the “design of the new eco-schemes (incentives for farmers adopting eco-friendly practices)” – mainly with regards to “additional options for grassland as well as an improvement of financial incentives.”