“We are very close to an excellent compromise, having made enormous progress last night on the most difficult problems”, tweeted the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski.
After the failure in May of three days of intense discussions that turned into a dialogue of the deaf, negotiators from the European Parliament and states resumed talks on Thursday to find a comprehensive compromise, ahead of a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on Monday . The Twenty-Seven approved in October the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a budget of 387 billion euros for seven years, including 270 billion in direct aid to farmers, but they must come to an agreement with the MEPs on its terms.
“A step has been taken on strategic plans” (national agricultural policies), tweeted MEP Anne Sander (EPP, right) around 2 am, saying she was “confident that a comprehensive agreement is within reach” .
The agreement reached concerns in particular “eco-regimes”, bonuses granted to farmers adopting demanding environmental programs, supposed to be implemented in early 2023 and whose content is largely defined by the States. MEPs initially demanded that they represent at least 30% of direct payments to farmers, states argued for a threshold of 20%.
Finally, the agreement reached provides for devoting an average of 25% per year of direct payments to eco-schemes over the entire period of the CAP (until 2027), with the possibility of devoting only 20% to it in 2023. and 2024, according to a summary consulted by AFP. During this transition, states will be free to reallocate unused funds beyond 20% as they see fit, but these “will have to be compensated by the end of the period” by a subsequent strengthening of eco-regimes or investments in other environmental measures.
While MEPs wanted to require farmers to make a “classic” annual crop rotation to preserve biodiversity, states could finally authorize “other practices” such as diversification (different crops simultaneously on the same farm) and the introduction of legumes. in the rotation. On the percentage of uncultivated arable land that farmers will be asked to return to nature, an agreement has been reached on a minimum threshold of 4%, below the 5% demanded by Parliament. On these points, several exemptions are planned, and farms of less than 10 hectares will be exempted.
German MEP Martin Häusling (Greens) deplored “a bad deal”, deeming the level of eco-diets too low and lax the rules for crop rotation. He castigated Thursday for “more and more exceptions” in “footnotes”.
However, the European Commission will be required to “examine” the compliance of national plans with the EU’s environmental and climate objectives (Green Deal, 50% reduction in pesticides by 2030 with a quarter of the land reserved for organic farming, etc.), according to a “recital” added overnight. This “alignment” was demanded by parliamentarians but was the subject of debate among the States.
Respect for labor law: increased controls
MEPs and state negotiators have also agreed to sanction farmers who do not respect workers’ rights. The national authorities will carry out the checks, with the risk of a drop in payments in the event of an infringement. This “social dimension” will be voluntary from 2023 and compulsory from 2025, according to a parliamentary source.
A redistribution mechanism for the benefit of small farms has also been validated.
After this forceps agreement on the “most complicated text” according to several negotiators, talks resumed this Friday morning on two other issues, including agricultural markets. MEPs want to tighten controls on the import of agricultural products, in particular to take into account their production methods and ban products with traces of pesticides banned in the EU for environmental reasons. This is a hobbyhorse for negotiator Éric Andrieu (S & D, social democrats).
States are worried about violating the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO): “a very delicate point”, undermined by the “red lines” of the Twenty-Seven, warned a diplomatic source.
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