Committee votes on main elements of the CAP.
Agriculture ministers meeting on Tuesday (29 January) will take stock of the European Parliament's position on Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform, which was being worked out yesterday and throughout today in the Parliament's agriculture committee.
Yesterday (23 January), MEPs on the committee voted on the two most important elements of CAP – direct payments and rural development. They maintained the Commission's proposal to tie 30% of direct payments to performance on three environmental measures. Member states have been considering establishing an enlarged menu of nine green options. But the MEPs voted to allow farmers to receive the funding if they have taken “equivalent measures” that achieve environmental outcomes – a variant that was not envisaged in the Commission's proposal. This would permit funding on the basis of the concept that a farm could be “green by definition”, an idea also under consideration by member states. MEPs remained in line with the Commission, however, on limits to funding: they voted to retain the proposed cap on EU funds that a farmer can receive.
The committee also voted in favour of a controversial proposal to allow farmers to receive ‘double funding' for the same action, under both the direct payments regime and the rural development regime. The Commission has warned that such double funding is illegal under EU law.
Environmental campaigners criticised the vote, alleging that the Parliamentary debate had been hijacked by agricultural interests. “If agreed upon as it stands, this will be a failed reform,” said Faustine Defossez of campaign group EEB. “In times of austerity, when governments and citizens across Europe are tightening their purse strings, it is scandalous – not to mention illegal – to expect taxpayers to pay farmers twice.”
She urged the full Parliament to reject double payments – and equivalent measures – when it votes in plenary in March.
Farmers organisation Copa-Cogeca applauded MEPs sticking to their original timeline for adopting the proposal. But the group said MEPs had not introduced enough flexibility in the greening measures. “They didn't go far enough,” said Pekka Pesonen, the group's secretary general. “By imposing these measures in a very rigid manner, we seriously undermine our production capacity potential in Europe. But at least the MEPs have recognised that the Commission's proposal doesn't work.”
Agriculture ministers are waiting until ongoing long-term budget talks are resolved before agreeing a position on the next period of the CAP from 2014 to 2020.
On Monday (28 January) fisheries ministers will continue discussing reform of the common fisheries policy (CFP). Simon Coveney, Ireland's minister for agriculture and fisheries, told the Parliament's fisheries committee on Tuesday (22 January) that he hopes a final agreement can be reached on CFP reform by the end of Ireland's presidency in June.
The fisheries committee adopted its opinion on the basic CFP regulation in December. The full Parliament will vote on the issue next month.
There is a dispute between the MEPs and member states over which areas of the CFP are subject to co-decision, but Coveney said the dispute should not be allowed to hold up an agreement on CFP beyond the end of the presidency.
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