German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has praised the EU’s compromise deal on the reform of the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), while associations and opposition parties criticised its shortcomings on organic farming and nature conservation. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“It is good and important that the trilogue partners have moved towards each other in the negotiations,” said Agriculture Minister Klöckner, noting that the compromise deal represents a system change with higher environmental standards.
“Our farmers, in particular, have been waiting for this – they need this clarity and planning security,” Klöckner added.
The Council of EU member states, and the European Parliament reached a compromise deal in Brussels on 25 June on the CAP’s reform that was approved by the EU’s agriculture ministers on 28 June. While the Parliament’s approval is still needed, a vote is not expected until September.
“This compromise is difficult, but also necessary, because it enables a medium-term planning basis for the years 2023 to 2027,” said Udo Hemmerling, deputy secretary-general of the German farmers’ association.
“The agreement provides a much stronger environmental focus, subsidies with less impact on income,” he told EURACTIV, noting however that applying for subsidies will become more bureaucratic for farmers.
New social dimension
According to the compromise deal, CAP payments will now for the first time be linked to compliance with minimum standards on working conditions under the so-called social conditionality agreement.
“The introduction of a social dimension is a great success for our group and for the European Parliament,” said Maria Noichl, negotiator for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament for parts of the reform.
Tackling the issue at the EU level made sense, according to Noichl, who wondered why “those who engage in social dumping get the same amount of taxpayers’ money as those who hire workers according to the rules?”.
Frank Tekkiliç of the industrial union Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt also welcomed the introduction of social conditionality.
“For many years, we as an agricultural union have been trying to link EU funding to conditions such as occupational health and safety and social issues, and to abandon the principle of unconditional funding by area,” he told EURACTIV Germany.
During the negotiations, Agriculture Minister Klöckner had expressed scepticism about EU-wide regulations on social conditions. The question of implementation at the national level “should not be underestimated,” she told a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 28 June.
But according to Noichl, implementation does not pose any problems. “The controls are already enforced today by the relevant authorities,” she said.
Criticism from organic farmers and nature conservationists
Germany’s organic farmers, however, feel they have been neglected by the reform.
“Organic farmers are not allowed to participate in all eco-schemes [ed. incentives for green practices] like all other farms – and thus be rewarded for additional environmental services,” said Peter Röhrig, executive director of the Federation of the Organic Food Industry (BÖLW).
“Organic farming has actually been treated rather ‘stepchild-like’,” agricultural economist Sebastian Lakner told EURACTIV Germany in an interview.
According to Lakner, the “voluntary” nature of the newly introduced organic regulations make them “much more effective than the mandatory greening approach,” although actual effectiveness will depend on how countries shape those measures at the national level.
But according to Jörg-Andreas Krüger, president of the nature conservation organisation NABU, the deal “does not do justice to the urgent need for action in the ecological crisis in agriculture”.
“Compared to what science says is necessary to stop species extinction and the climate crisis, the result is just a drop in the ocean,” he said, adding that this would “massively undermine” the European Green Deal.
“The agreement fails to achieve the goals of the Green Deal, and the agricultural turnaround has not materialised,” said MEP Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament.
Green Deal not legally binding
However, the Green Deal is mentioned only once in the new CAP’s non-legally binding recitals, despite a concerted push by Parliament and the Commission to have a legally binding reference.
At the Council of EU agriculture ministers on 28 June, Klöckner stressed that the reference to the Green Deal should “not create legal uncertainty for the approval of the national strategy plans”.
By January 2021, countries must submit their plans to the European Commission for the national implementation of the reform.
It is “good that only existing legal obligations can be used for the approval of the strategic plans,” Klöckner commented, saying the recital on the Green Deal would not be covered.