In a final vote today, MEPs approved a reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP), which will affect the shape of agriculture in the member states of the European bloc in the five-year period from 2023 and determine how European agricultural subsidies are redistributed. The planned changes are aimed at increasing environmental friendliness, better support for small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises and better preparedness of the agricultural sector for possible crises or market fluctuations. The new rules have yet to be approved by the Member States.
The new Common Agricultural Policy, which is the result of three years of negotiations between the EU institutions, takes into account the European Commission’s climate plan known as the Green Agreement for Europe and the commitments made at the Paris Climate Conference. Under the new rules, member state governments are to earmark at least a quarter of direct subsidies for organic farming.
However, the involvement of farmers in so-called eco-schemes will be voluntary, and MEPs, especially from the Greens / ESA parliamentary group, blame the reform that, although it seeks to promote ecological practices, its emphasis on environmental protection is still insufficient.
At least ten percent of the allocated funds should go to small and medium-sized farmers. It is up to the Member States to decide on the amount of subsidies allocated to agricultural holdings.
MEPs Veronika Vrecionová (YES), for example, expressed regret over the fact that the capping did not succeed in the end. “As statistics on Czech agriculture show, there is a constant concentration of farms in larger groups, which has a negative impact on our countryside. Fortunately, the future Czech government has committed itself to enforcing the ceiling itself,” Vrecionová told ČTK. . In today’s debate, she recalled that negotiations on CAP reform had taken a long time, which she said was a major burden for farmers, who needed to have time to prepare for the new rules.
The Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (KDU-ČSL) also perceives as a shortcoming that in the end it was not possible to enforce the mandatory capping of subsidies. “This is a fundamental problem that will deepen the differences in the competitiveness of farmers,” Sojdrová said in today’s debate. However, Šojdrová emphasized that the approved changes strengthen the powers of the member states. “For the Czech government, this is a great chance to really support farmers in improving environmental protection, animal welfare, and more careful use of land and water,” the MP told CTK.
The strongest criticism of the CAP reform has come from the Greens / EFA group, who say the changes are not ambitious enough in terms of environmental protection. Pirate MEP Mikuláš Peksa told ČTK that the reform, according to him, does not contain real measures in terms of ecology. “The largest amount of expenditure in the European budget still does not take into account the fact that we are in a climate crisis,” Peksa said.
German Green MEP Martin Häusling has also argued that most of the money will continue to be distributed widely to landowners. “The key is that 75 percent of the money will be paid out on the basis that people own land. And whoever owns a lot of land will get the most agricultural subsidies. The industries (Viktor) Orbán and (Andrej) Babiš will also enjoy it.” Häusling emphasized, referring to the resigning Hungarian prime minister and Czech prime minister, who are often discussed in the media in connection with drawing EU subsidies.
In today’s debate, Martin Hlaváček (YES) said that the newly approved framework gives entrepreneurs in agriculture the space to decide to invest in modern technologies and ecological practices. On the other hand, sharp criticism was voiced by Czech MP Ivan David (SPD). “The whole reform is going in the wrong direction and the goal is to reduce food self-sufficiency,” David said in a statement to parliament.
During today’s debate in the European Parliament, many Members emphasized the priority that the new CAP also aims to strengthen controls on working conditions in agriculture. Employers who violate the set standards will be at risk of losing their allotted funds.