CAP super trilogue brings ‘good atmosphere’ but few decisions

The chair of the European Parliament's agriculture committee Norbert Lins and the portuguese minister Maria do Céu Antunes discussing during the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 'super trilogue' last Friday (26 March). [EP/ROLLAND]

An ambitious meeting called by the Portuguese EU presidency on Friday (26 March) to seek a breakthrough in talks on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) talks did not settle all the issues on the table although negotiators considered it a step in the right direction.

Friday’s ‘super trilogue’, the brainchild of the Portuguese presidency, brought together all the European Parliament’s main rapporteurs on the CAP dossier and the rotating EU presidency, representing the EU27 countries and held by Portugal until the end of June.

The reform of the EU’s main farming programme is currently at the trilogue stage, meaning that interinstitutional negotiations are ongoing between the Portuguese presidency on behalf of EU ministers and lawmakers from the European Parliament.

Since a number of sticking points have cast doubt on whether the negotiator will be able to wrap up the CAP, the ‘super trilogue’ was called by the Portuguese farming minister Maria do Céu Antunes with the aim of having a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the three regulations that make up the reform.

Many outstanding issues were discussed during Friday’s meeting, including the new delivery model (NDM) of the CAP, the definition of ‘active’ or ‘genuine’ farmer, and the exceptional crisis measures.

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However,  only a few points were agreed upon after 10 hours of negotiations.

The main bone of contention between the Parliament and the Council – the CAP’s new delivery model – is still far from an agreement in principle, although the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski acknowledged that decisive steps have been taken during the super trilogue.

The Commission’s proposal for the new delivery model aims at 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.

Parliament considers cumbersome the assessment of farmers’ performance proposed by the Commission as it could lead to unnecessary burdens on national administration.

However, the EU ministers would like not to water down the original idea of the reform, preserving the Commission’s model.

When it comes to the NDM, the negotiators agreed on the result indicators and on a two-year review proposed by the Portuguese to meet the requests of MEPs for more flexibility, allowing the suspension of payments only every second year despite performance review is monitored every year.

Asked by EURACTIV.com in a press conference after the meeting, minister Antunes did not share many technical details in this regard and said only that the conditions are now in place to move forward toward a better solution on the NDM.

The extension of the vine planting authorisation scheme until 2045 was confirmed during the super trilogue, as well as a deal on the possibility of having de-alcoholised and partially-de-alcoholised wines as protected designation of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indication (PGI)

The Portuguese presidency and MEPs also found an agreement in principle on extending the regulation of supply for all agricultural products with PDO or PGI.

Negotiators did not clinch a deal on a common definition of what constitutes an active farmer, 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.

After the super trilogue, Antunes said it was a “good day for European agriculture” as each institution showed commitment and responsibility to complete the CAP reform.

The agreement in principles reached during the joint meeting will be discussed by EU ambassadors at a technical level in the coming weeks.

Wojciechowski hailed the outcomes of the super trilogue as negotiators showed flexibility to build compromises, hoping that the same spirit will preside over the remaining process.

The chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, German MEP Norbert Lins, said on Friday that although significant progress had been made, there was still a lot of work ahead, with more effort and flexibility needed.

“After today’s good atmosphere, I’m optimistic that we can finalise the CAP reform negotiations still with Maria do Céu Antunes. But the Council will have to show more flexibility in coming weeks to allow us to proceed quickly,” he said in a statement.

Antunes also cautioned not to underestimate the work that lies ahead, repeating the usual caveat: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

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