Science communication


EU Council and Parliament water down the CAP

During the last days, both the EU Council of Ministers and the Parliament voted in favour of reducing the green ambitions of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This means that from 2021, the new CAP will be less beneficial to the Green Deal – and thereby probably contribute less to reducing negative impacts on waters.

Text: Gun Rudquist

The new CAP is severely delayed. Already in 2018, the Commission presented a proposal and since then the debate has been strong and agitated about its content. The issue of so-called eco-schemes, and whether or not CAP funding should be earmarked (30 %) for these eco-schemes, has lately been one of the key obstacles for reaching an agreement. Eco-schemes would for instance contain support for agroecology, agroforestry and be compulsory for the member states but voluntary for farmers.

The German presidency suggested cutting back the ring-fencing to 20 % of the direct support and also introduce loopholes such as it not being applicable during the first two transitional years 2021- 2022. Furthermore, money not spent in the eco-schemes during 2023-2024 can be used for non-green farming projects.

After long and heated debate, during which the EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski delivered warnings to both politicians and parliamentarians, the Council accepted the compromise. Wojciechowski told EU ministers in Luxembourg that he was "concerned about some of the proposals on the table as they will not allow us to reach our objectives", which, in other words, refers to the Green Deal.

The European Parliament on Tuesday agreed on a compromise worked out by European Peoples Party, Renew Europe and the Socialists and Democrats, which at a first glance might look nice since it says yes to 30 % ringfencing for eco-schemes. But as always, the devil is in the details and here the loopholes are even more significant.

To start with, funding for eco-schemes is only allowed if it also supports "economic objectives" tied to farmers' incomes. On top of that, EP wants 60 % of farm subsidies to be spent on non-environmental targets. They are also limiting how the funding earmarked for environmental issues in the rural development programme can be used. 40 % must be spent on "areas of natural constraints", in other words mountainous remote land areas that might otherwise deteriorate. But there are yet no conditions on how this farming may be performed.

Even if these decisions were key steps toward finally having a new CAP in place, the Council represented by the German presidency, the Parliament and the Commission has yet to agree, for instance the amount to earmark for eco-schemes, what it can be spent on etc. So it is quite difficult to say how the CAP in the end will affect the environment and eventually the Baltic Sea. But it will probably not reduce the present negative impact.