In its observation letter on Germany’s plans for implementing the EU agricultural reform, the European Commission made far-reaching criticisms and called for more environmental and climate protection. German agriculture minister Cem Özdemir, however, welcomes the complaints. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“For the time being, I am grateful that the Commission has made constructive proposals in its observation letter,” said Özdemir ahead of the meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (24 May).
Over the past weeks and months, the Commission has been sending observation letters to all member states that had submitted their national strategic plans for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in Brussels.
In these plans, member states set out how they intend to achieve the core objectives of the CAP reform on a national level.
The German agriculture minister struck a completely different tone in his reaction to the Commission’s letter compared to some of his counterparts in other states: France’s former agriculture minister Julien Denormandie had reacted to the far-reaching criticism of his national plan by the Commission with a letter of reply in which he rejected a large part of the warnings.
In contrast, Özdemir tweeted that he would “carefully discuss the Commission’s suggestions with the federal states.”
“I see this as an encouragement to make the transformation towards a resilient and sustainable agriculture also here in Germany,” he added in Brussels.
Tailwind for the new government
Özdemir’s recent accession to office and the harmony of the feedback with his ministry’s own goals are likely contributing factors to why the Commission’s comments were received positively.
The German CAP strategic plan was largely drafted by his conservative predecessor, ex-agriculture minister Julia Klöckner. Özdemir hardly had time to make any changes of his own after taking office in December 2021.
The criticism from Brussels now gives him the opportunity to pillory the work of the previous government and at the same time to potentially follow his own course in cooperation with the Commission.
“We, too, see room for improvement in the CAP framework for 2023-27 drafted by the previous government,” Özdemir tweeted about the Commission’s letter.
Moreover, the content of many of the key issues flagged by Brussels matches the political priorities of Özdemir’s green-led agriculture ministry – especially because the Commission expects Germany to be more ambitious when it comes to implementing the European Green Deal, the EU’s flagship strategy for environmental and climate protection.
“The comments from Brussels are in line with what we are working on intensively: Advancing food security, climate protection, and biodiversity together and not seeing them as opposites,” said Özdemir, interpreting the Commission’s letter.
Against this background, the Green minister can hope to have his position strengthened during upcoming discussions on possible changes to the German strategic plan with agricultural stakeholders, but also with the federal states, on whose approval he is dependent when it comes to the CAP.
Achieving planning certainty
Only recently, disagreements erupted between the minister and many of his colleagues in the federal states over whether fallow land – so-called ecological priority areas – should be cleared for production in light of the war in Ukraine.
“I advise everyone to look carefully at what the Commission has said,” Özdemir stressed in Brussels. “In principle, this is nothing more than the path I have chosen, which is to say with regard to ecological priority areas that I am taking a pragmatic, moderate approach.”
The coordination of the CAP strategic plan should now take place quickly. According to the ministry of agriculture, there will be an exchange with federal states on technical details this week and both farming federations and the federal states will be invited to further consultations before the end of May.
The goal of the ministry is to have the amended strategic plan approved by the European Commission by the autumn of this year.
The German Farmers’ Association, among others, had repeatedly called for quick completion and approval of the plan in order to provide planning security for farmers.
In Brussels, Özdemir also stressed that any further changes to Germany’s plan must be weighed against this time pressure. “For me, it is clear – farmers cannot have a kind of ‘in with the potatoes – out with the potatoes’ situation.”