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Green CAP Reform in tatters

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[Brussels, 26 June 2013] The European Environmental Bureau strongly condemned a deal reached today on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Not only does it fail to make the CAP greener and fairer, it even might go back on the little progress made under previous reforms. The priority in the end of the negotiations was to strike a deal at all costs and the first in line to be sacrificed was the environment. At a time when EU governments are slashing government budgets, it also leaves the policy without any justification for continuing to eat up up to 40% of the EU budget.

The CAP has long been in urgent need of reform. From the beginning of the current reform process in 2010, the EEB and other NGOs stressed the need to reverse the current trends of a depletion of our natural resources, decrease of wildlife and biodiversity, and the degradation of the state of our water and soil fertility caused by European farming[1]. The European Commission proposal, if improved, could have restored credibility to the policy by significantly changing the controversial system of untargeted and damaging subsidies, and brought about a real greening of the policy.

The greening was also necessary to demonstrate to EU citizens that the CAP was not just about very generous income support in the form of damaging subsidies but about public money in return for the delivery of public goods such as clean water and maintaining biodiversity.

Faustine Defossez, EEB Senior Agriculture Policy Officer, said “Today EU negotiators have agreed to ask taxpayers to keep on spending hundreds of billions for the next seven years on a policy which will continue to damage our natural resources and threaten our long term food security.” She added: “This can only be described as a reform in as much as it re-orientates the policy in the wrong direction.”

A three pronged attack was launched on the greening proposed by the Commission. First, all efforts were put to dilute the measures themselves: reducing the Commission’s proposed three crops in diversification to two crops only between 10 and 30 hectares [2], reducing the Commission’s proposal for 7% of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) made out of ecological infrastructure, most probably the only meaningful element of the reform, to 5% and including non ecological elements such as crops and short rotation coppicing in there. Second, as many farms as possible were exempted from greening with two mechanisms: one the so called ‘equivalence’, the second by raising the threshold (number of hectares) under which farms are exempted from greening. This will leave at least 35.5% of EU farmland exempted from EFAs and 46% from meaningful crop diversification. [3]

Worse, this dressed down 30% ‘greening’ was then used to justify the sacrifices made to the few positive elements of this policy such as the requirement for farmers to comply with other EU legislation in order to qualify for funds (cross compliance) and meaningful minimum spending for the environment in Pillar II (the pillar with the most value for the environment and rural areas).

Two important pieces of legislation on water and pesticides have been removed from the Commission’s original proposal, de facto allowing farmers who break the law by polluting water and using illegal substances to continue to be subsidised. On top of that, the only safeguard to secure spending for the environment in Pillar 2 has been eroded by the inclusion of an extended list of measures and in particular investment measures that will not lead to an improvement of the environmental benefits in Rural Areas.
Defossez concluded “We are aware that some important details still have to be decided in the months to come, but at this stage no cosmetic change could hide this complete failure for people, farming and the environment.”

ENDS

Notes to editors
[1] NGO factsheets on CAP
[2] The only meaningful measure here would have been crop rotation.
[3] IEEP report on equivalence
[4] The EEB has undertaken an analysis of how the final deal compares to the Commission’s proposal and what it means for the environment.
[5] European Commission simulation on exemption
[6] EEB and Birdlife video on CAP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP5xah72YDI

Faustine Defossez – faustine.defossez@eeb.org - +32487244270

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