Lawmakers in the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee are increasingly doubtful that the post-2020 Common Agriculture Policy will be delivered on schedule, considering the delays in moving the reform forward, and want transitional regulation to ensure there are no interruptions.
On Tuesday ( 23 July), MEPs called for a realistic approach to the CAP reform which would include the adoption of transitional measures for 2021 in order to avoid financial exposure for European farmers. It seems quite unlikely that a deal at the EU level will be clinched and implemented in time for the start of the programming period in 2021.
Uncertainty over Brexit and the discussion on the general Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) stir up trouble for CAP negotiators, as both can affect the budget devoted to the most famous agricultural financial programme.
In a hearing with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, Renew Europe’s coordinator for AGRI, Ulrike Müller, asked him when MEPs could expect the EU executive to table a proposal for a transitional CAP plan.
“We have not seen the progress we wanted. We need that [transitional regulation],” said the liberal German MEP, who was also the rapporteur of one of the three legislative proposals that make up the entire new CAP architecture.
Veteran Italian MEP Paolo De Castro also hinted that the time has come to think about a transitional regulation to avoid discontinuation of payments to farmers.
Hogan answered that the Commission is ready should a transitional backup plan be needed, assuring farmers that “money will continue to flow in the way it has done in the past.”
“But we still have time to get things done through Parliament and Council in the autumn,” he stressed.
Decision on CAP postponed
The three texts of the CAP reform proposal did not reach the plenary stage in the previous parliamentary term, as lawmakers approved them only in the committee.
Before the AGRI meeting, coordinators of political groups decided to postpone for the start of September the decision whether to draft the three reports directly to the plenary or ask the new committee to start almost from scratch instead.
Contacting some groups’ coordinators in Strasbourg last week, EURACTIV understood that MEPs are seeking something in between, resubmitting the text to the committee and keeping it open to new amendments but without radical changes.
However, highly critical voices are not missing and the Greens coordinator, German MEP Martin Häusling, asked Hogan if the Commission was going to withdraw the proposal and come back with something else.
Socialist coordinator De Castro also admitted that even in his group, there are MEPs “who dream of a new legislative proposal.”
“We don’t want to jettison all the work done so far, but we need to reflect,” he added.
“I know you are discussing this at the moment and I’m not going to get involved in that discussion,” Commissioner Hogan told MEPs, “but I hope you will decide to build on the good work already done by the three rapporteurs.”
Slow down on Mercosur
Lawmakers also had the opportunity to exchange views with the Commission on the political agreement-in-principle for a trade deal with the Mercosur bloc.
Parliament’s reaction was overall quite critical and all the political groups raised concerns on different aspects of the deal clinched by EU negotiators.
According to centre-right Europe’s people party (EPP) coordinator, Italy’s Herbert Dorfmann, farmers are concerned as they feel they will bear the brunt in the end.
Socialist De Castro stressed that his group did not understand the reasons behind the speeding up of the negotiations, considering that the deal was concluded at the end of the legislative term and that there was no debate in the Parliament.
“It is worse than we expected,” said Häusling on behalf of the Greens, while the liberal coordinator in AGRI, Ulrike Müller, also highlighted “climate challenges”.
Czech Ivan David of the nationalist group Identity and Democracy (ID) said the deal “will only make things worse for European farming,” while leftist Luke Ming Flanagan pointed out it will put under pressure beef farmers, particularly those in Ireland.
Cordon sanitaire has broken
The committee also completed its Bureau, as MEPs elected the two remaining high-level posts, the third and the fourth vice-chairs.
There was a great expectation about the last two appointments, as an MEP from Spanish far-right VOX party, Mazaly Aguilar, presented her candidature.
Aguilar succeeded in breaking the cordon sanitaire against the far-right, as she was elected in the end despite an attempt from the socialists to field their candidate Clara Aguilera.
The vote was taken by secret ballot, but some Parliament sources said that the cordon sanitaire failed because of an agreement with the liberals to elect their own candidate, Elsi Katainen, as fourth vice-president.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]