The first round of negotiations under new leadership is taking place today and there is still a lot of work to be done to reach a common position on agricultural support from 2023 together with the EU Parliament. The German Council Presidency was able to reach a preliminary agreement on some points of conditionality. However, there is still no compromise in sight on the major contentious issues such as the budget for voluntary environmental services or the design of the eco-regulations.
New Tones from Portugal
In a recent interview, the Portuguese Minister of Agriculture presented her plans. Above all, she announced the goal of concluding the negotiations during the Portuguese Council Presidency, i.e. by the end of June. On the subject of the Green Deal and the farm-to-fork strategy, at least she is speaking in conciliatory tones. While Klöckner still accused the EU Commission of hovering above the field and distant from reality with its visions, Antunes was much more positive and described the farm-to-fork strategy as the centrepiece of the Green Deal. Accordingly, she also promised that the CAP must take greater account of environmental concerns.
10 environmental policy tests for the trialogue
However, warm words will not be enough to turn the disastrous results of the votes in Council and Parliament into a success for nature and climate protection; the trialogue must deliver here. While the EU Commission has repeatedly called for significant improvements, the negotiations in recent weeks could at best be described as an environmental sideways movement. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) (of which NABU is a member) has therefore today published 10 tests against which the outcome of the trilogue negotiations must ultimately be measured.
- Protection of carbon sinks: Here, both the Council and the Parliament have to improve their positions on the rules of conditionality, as well as on the eligibility of carbon-rich areas (e.g. paludiculture), after both sides had watered down the corresponding GAEC standard.
- "Space for nature" on every farm: To restore biodiversity, at least 10% of the agricultural landscape must be available for nature, for example in the form of fallow land, hedgerows and copses. Here, too, appropriate standards must be set in the CAP, e.g. in the so-called GAEC9 of conditionality or the organic regulations, and undesirable developments in the previous positions must be eliminated.
- Sufficient funding for climate and nature protection, for example through a high earmarking of funds for eco-regulations in the 1st pillar and AUCM in the 2nd pillar. The Parliament is clearly more ambitious than the Council and demands a minimum share of 30% for eco-regulations in the 1st pillar.
- No money for harmful monocultures: rules on crop rotation (in conditionality) must be improved accordingly. The Council in particular would like to see a watering down of standards here so far.
- No money for intensive livestock farming: inter alia coupled payments must not lead to an increase in herd sizes and livestock density. The safeguards put forward by the Parliament are far too weak, while the Council had simply waved through the Commission's inadequate 2018 proposal.
- The objectives of the Green Deal and, above all, the Farm-to-Fork and the Biodiversity Strategy must be anchored in the CAP in such a way that they are binding for the member states within the framework of national programming. The Council had completely ignored this point in its position and the Parliament, too, could only bring itself to a half-hearted integration.
- No greenwashing: Gaps in the quality of measures under the eco-regulations, as both Council and Parliament have inserted, must be closed. Otherwise there is a risk of greenwashing, the new eco-regulations could then mainly finance the status quo with additional money and thus repeat one of the mistakes of greening. The Parliament had also rejected the nonsensical proposal to charge a flat rate of 40% of direct payments as climate protection payments. The Council must now agree to this, otherwise there is a risk of massive fraudulent labelling.
- The EU Commission must be in a position to effectively demand that Member States comply with the targets set in their national strategy plans. This requires a robust system of indicators and a strong mandate on the part of the EU Commission. The Council in particular wants to water down the original text here.
- Both the public and environmental authorities must be widely involved in national programming. While the Parliament demands improvements to the Commission's original proposal, the Council is opposed to this.
- All decision-making processes, both the preparation of national strategy plans and their approval by the EU Commission, must be as transparent as possible.
As can be seen from this list, the Council in particular still has to take a clear step forward, especially the new Council Presidency. However, the same also applies to the Parliament, which had decided on dangerous environmental retrograde steps in its position, such as a minimum share of 60% of the first pillar for the inefficient direct payments or a dilution of the quality of the organic regulations. The EU agricultural reform is therefore far from being off the ice and the negotiators in the trilogue have a special responsibility and we will continue to follow the progress of the talks.