French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert asks agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to continue direct payments to farmers during a discussion on the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. EURACTIV France reports.
“The aid paid under the CAP must come from the European budget,” said Stéphane Travert, the French minister of agriculture, who is uncompromising on this point: “it is a red line for France,” he said on the sidelines of the CAP 2020 Roundtables in Paris on 19 December.
France, an agricultural powerhouse, made its position on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) clear following the Commission’s Communication on “The Future for Food and Agriculture”, unveiled on 29 November.
By 2020, Brussels wants more “flexibility” and a simplified CAP: “member states should take greater responsibility and report on how they intend to achieve the objectives and implement the targets agreed together”, according to the document.
The plan to simplify and redistribute competences between the Union and the member states raised fears of a “renationalisation of the CAP” according to centre-right (EPP) MEPs.
There is also the risk of distortions of competition between states in a CAP à la carte.
“We must simplify the tools,” said Stéphane Travert. “In the current state of affairs, the system is too complex and this leads to problems in the application of the policy,” added Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for agriculture and rural development.
The most important thing is to streamline the ‘greening’ element: aid granted to farmers for ecological reasons is allocated according to very complex criteria, which farmers have been slow to adopt.
With this in mind, France welcomed the Commission’s ‘yellow card’ scheme, which allows farmers to receive a warning rather than a penalty for the first infringement of the system – something called “Integrated Management and Control System” (IACS).
“A mention of the right to make mistakes must be introduced” announced the French minister of agriculture.
Already mentioned during the French presidential campaign, the option would allow farmers to make mistakes when they fill in the complex grant files.
The issue of Brexit still weighs on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy. The departure of the fourth largest contributor to the European budget, scheduled for 29 March 2019, makes any projection of the CAP budget difficult.
“The Union’s agricultural policy must not be used as an adjustment variable”, said Stéphane Travert, who fears budget cuts.
Phil Hogan, the Irish Commissioner, has promised that “Europe will continue to pay aid to British farmers as long as the United Kingdom is a member of the Union” but could not guarantee that the CAP budget would not suffer from Britain’s departure.
The roundtable, organised in Paris at the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), was expected by Minister Travert and his European counterparts: “This is the first opportunity we have to meet and discuss since the Commission’s announcement”, he said.
In particular, representatives of the Austrian, Spanish, Dutch, Irish and Polish ministries of agriculture were present.
Germany’s agriculture minister Christian Schmidt has not made the trip, however, as his country is still seeking a majority in the Bundestag and new negotiations are taking place between the CDU/CSU and the SPD (Social Democrats).