Germany and France have agreed to keep the European Union farming budget at its current level, following a meeting between their agriculture ministers in Berlin on Wednesday (10 October).
Germany's Ilse Aigner and France's Stéphane Le Foll said they "support the Commission’s proposal to maintain the agricultural budget to the nominal level of 2013 for the period 2014-2020," the two ministers said in a joint statement.
Germany is the largest contributor to the European Union's budget and France the largest beneficiary of farm subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which today makes up about 40% of the bloc’s total budget.
The announcement comes at a decisive moment, with European ministers meeting in Brussels next week to hash out the 2014-2020 multi-annual financial framework (MFF).
Aigner and Le Foll announced the necessity for their countries to continue with close and trustful relations during the final stages of negotiations over CAP reform and the MFF.
Amid calls from Britain and Poland – and others – to make cuts to agriculture, the two ministers "expressed their opposition to the proposal by some member states to reduce the resources of the [CAP's] first pillar", which supports farmers' income with direct payments.
‘Leveling’ of direct aid
The ministers said they may agree to some convergence between member states in the level of direct payments to farmers, provided it was "reasonable and progressive".
The EU executive had proposed a system of convergence to reduce income disparities between farmers in Western and Eastern Europe. Since France receives the biggest slice of the CAP, its farmers could see up to a 7% drop in funding, according to the Commission's proposal.
The ministers said they supported a “strong” CAP, since it was important for growth, employment, environment and innovation in Europe’s rural areas and for the participation of Europe in the global food balance.
And while they support the Commission's drive for greener farming, they asked for flexible policies. "The ministers request that an agriculturally sustainable use of areas of ecological interest may be possible", the statement said.
The two ministers also called on the EU to protect in an “aggressive way” its agricultural interests in the face of globalisation in its commercial relations.