EU official: Specific conditions will make agriculture spending more efficient

The EU’s extravagant agricultural subsidies are damaging the health of Europeans, polluting the environment, and contributing to global warming, argues Annika Hedberg. [Shutterstock]

This article is part of our special report CAP: New delivery model, climate and spending.

The new Common Agriculture Policy budget is moving towards a science-based approach, with most targets multidisciplinary in nature and requiring member states to come up with specific national approaches,  a senior EU official told

“This [science-based] approach would require that there are farm advisory systems that function in all member states not only to provide farmers with information but also to exchange the best practices among them and other member states,” said Tasos Haniotis, a senior official at the European Commission’s agriculture directorate.

“If these conditions are met, then we will obviously be able to be much more efficient in the manner we spend money than we do today,” Haniotis explained.

He said most of the targets set in the executive’s proposals for the post-2020 CAP are multidisciplinary in nature.

“It’s not only about agriculture but a combination of things ranging from food chain and safety to the environment.”

One condition, according to Haniotis, is the strategic plans of the member states. Those should be based on the latest available evidence about their needs especially when it comes to the environment and climate change.

“This guarantees that the level of ambition of everybody is going to be higher than what it currently is,” Haniotis said.

According to the new delivery model, EU member states will have to come up with their own national strategies in agriculture, adjusted to their specificities.

A second condition, the EU official said, is to provide member states with enough flexibility to adapt their project to their national particularities, but with a view to achieving EU-wide objectives.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) recently criticised the Commission’s CAP proposals, saying they lack ambitions for a greener and more robust performance-based approach.

Although it agrees that the national strategic plans could help better control spending, it insists that more should be done when it comes to climate change objectives.

“In our view, the creation of CAP strategic plans represents an opportunity to better coordinate agricultural spending […] this outweighs the issue of links to other funds.  As we pointed out in our Briefing Paper in March, the old partnership agreements had little impact in practice,” João Figueiredo, the ECA member responsible for the Court’s Opinion on the CAP, told EURACTIV.

However, he added, the key challenge now is the complementarity of the CAP with climate change mitigation policies.

Luc Vernet, a senior advisor at Farm Europe, a think tank specialising in EU agricultural affairs, told EURACTIV that the level of administrative controls proposed by the Commission is higher than in the current framework, considering “it’s proposed to add a new layer of controls via the performance controls, which is not replacing current controls but coming on the top of the controls that already exist today”.

“Nevertheless, with the new delivery model, the Commission will only control the good administration but will have ultimately no capacity to guarantee that EU spending has a real impact to reach common EU goals. Most of the parameters to trigger payments would be designed by the member states,” Vernet said.

When it comes to the environment, he said some parameters could be very strict while others very light green.

“If the new delivery model is adopted as such, the CAP would enter into a grey zone with 27 different levels of ambition and different eligibility conditions for farmers depending on their country. This would be a major blow to the level playing field,” Vernet warned.

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