French farmers’ union puts post-2020 CAP consultation at risk

Only the Commission knows the number of consultations that have been sent. Agriculture Culture Commissioner Phil Hogan (pictured) is clearly in the hot seat. [epp group/Flickr]

A letter, sent by the French farmers’ union to its local members, raises concerns about the credibility of the post-2020 CAP consultation, and data protection linked to it.

In February, the European Commission officially launched a public consultation for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The consultation period is open until 2 May and through this process, several stakeholders are exchanging their views about what the future of European agriculture should look like.

In March, the leading French farmers’ union (Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles-FNSEA) shared a response guide for the CAP consultation with its local sections, the Fédérations Départementales des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FDSEA).

EURACTIV.com obtained this document, which raises severe concerns about the credibility of the process as well as data protection issues.

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In its letter, the FNSEA noted that NGOs, especially from Germany, had already gathered more than 8,000 replies to the questionnaire.

“It, therefore, is necessary to mobilise as much as possible our network to weigh the NGOs in the strict interest of our farmers,” the federation wrote, questioning the source of this information as the consultation process was just in its initial phase.

EURACTIV was informed that only the Commission is aware of the number and origin of responses to the consultation. In fact, some sources do not rule out some sort of “bluffing” in order to gather more replies.

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A single IP

At another point, the letter states that FDSEA can submit individual responses on behalf of its members, as the Commission allows multiple responses to be submitted from a single IP address.

The letter says, “The Commission accepts multiple responses from the same IP address. It is, therefore, possible for our network to arrange a massive response using the FDSEA membership file.” The communication then adds: “[While] taking care to make minimal changes to the answers to the open questions.”

EURACTIV understands that the FDSEA has at its disposal personal data of its members and it’s not clear whether it is intending to contribute to the consultation on behalf of their members, while no indication of a request for consent is clear in the letter.

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The Commission’s credibility

Commenting on the letter, Greenpeace’s Agriculture Policy Director, Marco Contiero, said that organisations on all sides are actively trying to stimulate responses to the CAP consultation.

“What sets this apart is the blatant statement suggesting that the organisation intends to use its members’ names and private information to fill in the consultation on their behalf,” he noted.

“This raises concerns about the use of private data and consent, but it also questions the credibility of the Commission consultation,” he added.