Croatians pulled off their aim of getting the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)’s transitional regulations finished on their watch, clinching an eleventh-hour deal with the European Parliament on the last day of their EU presidency.
Negotiators from the Council and the Parliament have “informally developed a common understanding” on an interim two-year period where current CAP rules will apply before the next EU farming subsidies programme starts.
Although provisional, the compromise reached involves all the essential aspects of the transitional CAP file, while only the pending issues linked to the EU’s next long-term budget remain open.
Co-legislators resisted pressure from the European Commission, which had demanded a one-year transition to bridge the gap between the current CAP programme and the next.
EURACTIV.com understands that the pressure on lawmakers came from Commission’s Directorate-General for Budget (DG BUDG) which believes a two-year CAP divide doesn’t fit well in the context of the ‘Next Generation EU’, the Commission’s €750 billion Recovery Fund to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Transitional law will ensure the continuation of direct payments, as well as the funding of new projects in the rural development programme, even without an agreement on the CAP reform, which has come to a standstill.
However, the coming into force of the post-2020 CAP will be pushed back to 2023.
“Extending the current rules for two more years gives much-needed predictability and certainty to all farmers across Europe during the COVID-19 crisis,” Croatian farming minister Marija Vučković said.
Securing an agreement on CAP transitional regulations was a key priority of the Croatian presidency and represents a remarkable achievement, say insiders, considering the exceptional circumstances under which they worked in the last six months.
Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, the Finnish liberal Elsi Katainen, said that the compromise will give farmers confidence in planning the future for the upcoming two years.
“It gives EU member states further tools to help their farmers deal with effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” she added.
Closing the agreement before the end of the Croatian presidency was an important step, according to the chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (AGRI), the German Christian-democrat Norbert Lins.
“But to finalise this deal and to speed up our work on the CAP reform for after 2022 and we need an agreement on the future EU long-term budget,” he added, calling on member states to come up with a feasible position on bloc’s multi-financial framework.
In March, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) warned about the risk of a long transitional period as it may delay the Commission’s ambition to make the farming sector more environmentally sustainable.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]