Th AGRI Committee voted its Opinion on amendments to the CMO Regulation on Monday 1 April, its Opinion on the Strategic Plan Regulation on 2 April and will vote its Opinion on the Horizontal Regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP today 8 April. I plan to comment on the substantive outcome of these votes in the coming days. In this post I want to comment on a procedural aspect of these votes that I find does not live up to the norms of acceptable practice and which makes it impossible for anyone not in the inner circle to follow the voting on these Opinions.
On 5 December last, COMAGRI had a first exchange of views on the so-called “Omnibus” proposal for a Regulation on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and amending a number of sectoral regulations. In my previous post, I flagged that this legislation provided the first opportunity to make changes to the CAP basic acts since the 2013 CAP reform was concluded.
It was thus interesting to listen to the mood of the Committee as the co-rapporteurs for the opinion, Albert Dess (EPP) and Paolo De Castro (S&D) introduced the discussion (a video of the discussion can be viewed here, beginning at 16:07).
My previous post highlighted the somewhat muted commitment in the Commission’s 2017 Work Programme to “take forward work and consult widely on simplification and modernisation of the Common Agricultural Policy to maximise its contribution to the Commission’s ten priorities and to the Sustainable Development Goals. This will focus on specific policy priorities for the future….”.
Member States as well as the European Parliament are also beginning to prepare their positions on what may or may not become the next CAP reform. Next week, on November 8th in Brussels, the European Parliament’s COMAGRI and Policy Department B are organising a workshop on Reflections on the agricultural challenges post 2020 in the EU: preparing the next CAP reform.
The Commission proposed a draft budget (DB) for 2015 in June, and the figures are now under negotiation between the two legislative institutions. Since the Lisbon Treaty, the annual budget is agreed by co-decision between the Council and the Parliament, although the outcome must observe the ceilings agreed in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF).
Once the draft budget is proposed, the Council first adopts its position and forwards it to the European Parliament (EP).
Many criticisms have been made since the vote. The agro-lobby is talking about a melt-down of the urgently needed reforms and greening, reacting on the COMAGRI proposal to allow farmers to ‘opt out’ of mandatory greening requirements and still get at least 70% of the direct payments as well as watering down every single measure with so called ‘equivalents’.
Environmental campaigners also criticised the vote, alleging that the debate was dominated by agricultural interests.
Direct payments regulation (2292 amendments).
Single CMO regulation (2227 amendments)
Rural development regulation (2127 amendments)
Horizontal regulation (769 amendments)
The next COMAGRI meeting on 3 September will exchange views on the amendments to the Commission proposal related to direct payments to farmers after 2013. The total of 2292 tabled amendments include the 111 by the rapporteur, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos. In addition, other Committees have also adopted opinions to this proposal.
While the rapporteur’s draft has yet to be discussed by COMAGRI, it is likely to be approved as it builds on previous Parliament reports and resolutions. The COMAGRI opinion is a set of suggestions to the Budget Committee which has the ultimate responsibility for drafting the Parliament’s view on whether to consent to the Council’s (and, ultimately, the European Council’s) decision on the MFF ceilings in the 2014-2020 period.
In addition, a number of the other EP committees have prepared draft opinions on the proposals – see the Environment Committee here, but also the Development Committee, the Budget Committee and the Regional Development Committee.
De Castro explains that he has always regarded himself as a CAP reformer and sets out his vision for a reshaping of the EU’s farm subsidy system. He advocates a shift to a basic flat rate aid payment to farmers, plus additional funds to be allocated at the discretion of member states.