German agriculture minister slams Timmermans ahead of CAP trilogue

Klöckner has herself come under domestic fire from the German Green party, which says the minister failed to stand up in the EU for the climate ambitions she negotiated at the national level. [BMEL/photothek.de]

German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has launched a sharp attack on EU climate chief Frans Timmermans ahead of continued negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Brussels. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“All ministers […] have the impression that Commissioner Timmermans’ behaviour is endangering trust in the Commission as an honest broker,” said Klöckner following an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Lisbon on 15 June in preparation for the trilogue meeting between the European Parliament and the Council, mediated by the Commission.

The German minister said the Commission had not fulfilled its role as a mediator but had repeatedly obstructed the negotiations with its own, not agreed upon points during the jumbo trilogue in May. Negotiations were then postponed until Thursday and Friday (24-25 June).

Klöckner is nevertheless optimistic about the upcoming trilogue. In Lisbon, EU ministers had shown that they were ready to compromise, having for instance settled on a 25% target for the planned eco-schemes (incentives for farmers who adopt eco-friendly practices), agreeing to split the difference between their initial demand of 20% and Parliament’s 30%.

CAP talks crash on the 'floor' amid interinstitutional blame game

After four days of tense talks, a disagreement between EU lawmakers on a technical detail concerning the greening of direct payments to farmers paved the way for a breakdown in the interinstitutional negotiations on the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Compromise in Berlin, blockade in Brussels

Klöckner has herself come under domestic fire from the German Green party, which says the minister failed to stand up in the EU for the climate ambitions she negotiated at the national level.

“We Greens expect the German government to stand up for the socio-ecological restructuring of the CAP in Brussels and not to play on the side of the vested interests,” Green agricultural policy spokesperson Friedrich Ostendorff told EURACTIV Germany.

On 10 June, the German parliament passed a legislative package for the national implementation of the CAP reform, which is largely based on a compromise solution hammered out by the agricultural ministers of Germany’s 16 states.

However, parliament rejected a motion submitted by the Green party calling on the German government to support those solutions at the EU level.

Saxony’s agriculture minister, Wolfram Günther, said he believes it should be possible to find a compromise at the EU level like the one found by Germany’s 16 states.

“We need ecologically ambitious EU guard rails, but the member states need their own leeway for shaping the new rules. This is the spirit in which [Klöckner] has argued, and this is the spirit in which she must now deliver,” he told EURACTIV Germany.

Different interests exist between countries due to the “wide range of agricultural structures, with clear differences above all between east and west as well as north and south,” he said.

This was particularly true with regard to the scope of organic farming regulations, shifting to the second pillar and redistribution in favour of small farms, he added.

Bundestag adopts national CAP package amid ongoing EU negotiations

While negotiations on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform have not been concluded in Brussels, the German Bundestag, racing to complete work before national elections in September, has passed a legislative package to be implemented at the national level.

Less bureaucracy, more women in agriculture

However, Germany’s agricultural sector also has diverging expectations of the future CAP. In a joint position paper, the German Farmers’ Association and various livestock associations have called for the reform to strengthen grazing livestock and grassland farming.

Most notably, they are demanding that support programmes be expanded and a low-bureaucracy design for grazing livestock premiums be set up. The association also pleaded for a broad interpretation of the term “active farmer,” for which it fears farms will face an excessive bureaucratic burden.

EU reform also needs to be readjusted so as to strengthen the interests of women in agriculture, said Clara Billen of the German Rural Women’s Association.

“For example, there is a need for special support programmes in the field of counselling, coaching and qualification to equip women in agriculture for the increasingly complex challenges,” Billen told EURACTIV Germany.

The Commission’s proposal to have gender equality as one of 10 objectives laid in the national agricultural strategy plans is a step in the right direction, but not enough.

‘Worthwhile for farmers to do more for climate protection’

Joyce Moewius from the Federation of the Organic Food Industry meanwhile stressed that it must be worthwhile for farmers to voluntarily do more for climate and environmental protection.

“The CAP must be coherent with the overarching goals of the biodiversity and farm-to-fork strategies. This means that organic farming must play a special role,” she said.

For Christian Rehmer of the nature conservation organisation BUND, CAP funding should be used to support farms “in the socio-ecological transformation process.”

“BUND does not expect the trilogue process to be a search for the smallest compromise, but ambitious decisions,” Rehmer said, adding that EU reform must not fall short of the environmental standards set out in the German CAP legislation.

Competition from abroad

Others, such as German MP Gero Hocker of the liberal FDP, say the planned ecological measures go too far, saying that the burden to be placed on EU farmers would make the bloc dependent on food imports from third countries.

“The new CAP leads to increasing requirements and a restriction of production. As a result, the CAP’s impact on incomes will be significantly reduced. Further farm deaths in agriculture are the result,” he said.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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