French MPs denounce Commission’s lack of progress on CAP reform

"Over the past 18 months, parliaments across Europe have expressed the idea that no one agrees with the Commission's proposals. [...] Everyone is demanding to keep the aid, and the Commission doesn't want to hear anything," said Sophie Primas, chairwoman of the Senate's Economic Affairs Committee.

France is beginning to kick up a fuss on the issue of reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is not seeing any progress even though its format is supposed to change from 2021 onwards. EURACTIV France reports.

The proposal for the CAP’s reform tabled by the European Commission is not satisfactory, both for the French government and parliamentarians, who protested at yet another consultation meeting organised by the rotating Finnish Presidency, which took place this week in Helsinki.

“It is a dialogue of the deaf,” denounced the chairmen of the economic affairs committees, both of the French Senate and the National Assembly. The Senate’s European Affairs Committee also condemned the current situation.

As the CAP’s primary beneficiary, France has no interest in seeing aid allocated to farmers being cut, let alone allocated at the national level, which would amount to an additional cost for France or to the slashing of aid from which the sector currently benefits.

MPs vs the Commission’s CAP proposal 

In France, farmers receive EU subsidies amounting to around €9.5 billion per year, which is three times more than the aid they obtain from the national budget (about €3 billion). As the main beneficiary of the CAP, the French government has made it its duty to defend the future CAP’s budget, which the European Commission wants to reduce.

However, the current distribution of funds is not optimal, and some people are calling for further cuts. The aid would serve the interests of the largest farmers and chemical producers, rather than the farmer themselves. In France, this is the analysis of the left, but also of the Court of Auditors, which has denounced how farmer subsidies are being distributed in France.

The way agricultural aid is distributed creates inequalities, French court of auditors say

The way agricultural aid is distributed in France is unequal and produces negative effects, the French court of auditors said in a summary judgement. The chamber is calling for changes to how aid is allocated under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), though this is currently not on the agenda. EURACTIV France reports.

“Over the past 18 months, parliaments across Europe have expressed the idea that no one agrees with the Commission’s proposals. On Monday in Helsinki, all parliaments were represented except for MPs from Belgium and Portugal. Everyone is demanding to keep the aid, and the Commission doesn’t want to hear anything,” said Sophie Primas, chairwoman of the Senate’s Economic Affairs Committee.

As for France’s Agriculture Ministry, discussions on the budget for the future CAP are being held “against the European Commission, which wants to lower it,” the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Didier Guillaume, told the major French radio channel France Inter on Wednesday (30 October).

“What exactly is France defending?”

But parliamentarians from across the EU are wondering about France’s position, which on the one hand boasts that it wants to preserve the CAP’s budget, but also defends the budget for research, defence, climate, etc.

“We do not know the precise trade-offs: what exactly is France defending?” Sophie Primas wondered.

Another vital issue is that France refuses the additional flexibility proposed by the European Commission, which could lead to situations of ecological dumping. For instance, if one member state decides to reduce aid linked to environmental efforts.

This renationalisation of the CAP could lead to “terrible competition” between the different member states. But on this front, the agriculture minister has been reassuring. On the issue of renationalising the CAP, the agriculture minister has said that he thinks “it has been abandoned, and we have won the game”.

The CAP’s reform will also need to provide greater support for the agro-ecological transition, according to the minister.

“Today, France supports the idea that agricultural aid should really be focused on the agro-ecological transition,” Didier Guillaume maintained, citing, in particular, the strengthening of the compensation for so-called ‘natural handicaps’.

However, the European Commission has not yet put forward a new proposal for the future CAP.

French government institute welcomes idea of a CAP supporting farmers' jobs

In a report presented in Paris on 23 October, the government institution France Stratégie proposed to support employment in the agricultural sector rather than the amount of cultivated land. But for this to become reality, a complete overhaul of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is needed. EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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