Evolution of the direct payments regulation

In January I prepared a spreadsheet setting out the amendments to the Commission’s proposed direct payments regulation which took account of the COMAGRI rapporteur’s amendments May 2012, the Council’s position as summarised in the Cyprus Presidency document December 2012 and the COMAGRI compromise amendments Jan 2013.

Some readers found this useful so I have now updated the spreadsheet to take account of the COMAGRI proposal for a negotiating mandate in February 2013 (that is, after COMAGRI voted on the compromise and other amendments), the mandate following the European Parliament plenary vote in March 2013, and the successive versions of the regulation prepared by the Irish Presidency for the March 2013 Agricultural Council meeting. The updated spreadsheet can be downloaded here (use the download arrow in the top left corner when the Google Drive document opens to download the spreadsheet to your computer).

The Irish Presidency prepared three versions of Council’s general approach on the direct payments regulation. The first, dated 12 March 2013, included all amendments for which the Presidency noted the broad support of delegations in the Special Committee on Agriculture and the Working Party on Horizontal Agricultural Questions, as well as the final amendments suggested by the Presidency to address the remaining outstanding concerns (7183/13). Some amendments to address the remaining outstanding concern whereby Member States applying Article 18(3) should be allowed to allocate new entitlements on any extra land declared in the first year of the new scheme were circulated the following day (7183/13 + ADD 1). This was supplemented by an Annex circulated on 15 March on the voluntary extension of the SAPS (Single Area Payment Scheme) to 2017 (7183/13 ADD 2). (These documents can be found together on the Council documents website here)

Then on the first night of the Council meeting following the series of bilateral confessionals with each Minister the Irish Presidency prepared a second set of amendments (the ‘midnight draft’) which were circulated late the following morning (7539/13 19 March 2013). This document formed the basis for the final discussions on the 19 March and led to some further amendments and the final agreement which were circulated as document 7539/13 ADD 1. The spreadsheet allows the evolution of the amendments during the Council meeting to be compared. The original documents can be found on the Council documents website here.

The successive Council drafts do not directly delete the Commission’s original position on many issues. For example, the paragraphs stating that all payment entitlements should have a uniform value by 2019 (Article 22(5), the paragraph on capping (Article 11) and the Chapter on the agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment (Articles 29-33) all continue into the final agreement. However, the practical impact of the Commission’s proposals is totally changed, either by making the proposal voluntary for member states, or by introducing derogations which allow member states to do something completely different.

This has implications for the way we conceptualise the agricultural policy decision-making process. Although the legislative process is not yet completed, it is already clear that, under co-decision, the old idea that the Commission has the sole right of initiative needs qualification. Although the final structure of the Council general approach exactly follows the structure of the Commission’s original draft proposal, the new elements in the Council’s position (such as the redistributive payment, extension of SAPS to 2020, the rewriting of the greening measures) all suggest more legislative ‘activism’ than the traditional model allows.

The main interest now turns to the comparison of the final position of the Council and the negotiating mandate of the Parliament. The attached spreadsheet makes it easy to draw a side-by-side comparison of the remaining differences (I suggest hiding all the other columns). Happy browsing!

Photo credit www.euinside.eu

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