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Old interests in the New Member States

On July 3, a conference was organised on the future of the CAP with the attendance of representatives of six New Member States (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia) in Rzeszów, Poland. Although the original goal of the meeting was to provide solutions to those issues that affect the CEE agriculture after 2014, a Common Statement of Agricultural Ministers was published, which is a useful source to identify NMS interests in the CAP reform debate.

It is the unanimous opinion of the respective New Member States (NMS) that in its current form, the CAP does not serve the original objectives such as simplification, decreasing administrative burdens and convergence. Regarding the Multiannual Financial Framework, the NMS call for consistency between EU objectives and tasks defined in the EC legislative proposals on CAP after 2013. As to new objective criteria regarding the distribution of rural development support, NMS call for the usage of development gap of individual Member States combined with their past performance (allocation for the period 2007-2013).

As to the proposed changes in direct payments, the Common Statement is first and foremost against the decrease in direct payments envelopes for those Member States with rates below average in 2013. The NMS would also like to see the possibility to maintain single area payment scheme (SAPS) combined with solutions to sensitive sectors as an alternative to the system based on the allocation of payment entitlements. However, if the shift is necessary from SAPS to a new payment scheme based on entitlements, NMS require equal possibility for all Member States to differentiate the value of their entitlements.

According to the Common Statement, no direct payments should be granted to land used for non-agricultural activity (e.g. airfields, golf courses, football pitches) in order to target support to active farmers. Moreover, NMS believe that capping of direct payments should not affect competitiveness of EU farmers and in the same vein call for the set of percentage limit for coupled support to be left to individual Member States to prevent distortion of competition. Furthermore, NMS propose support to young farmers and small farmers to be voluntary for the Member States.

As to greening, the NMS would like to see the simplification of the original proposals and find the 7% of agricultural land devoted to ecological focus too high as it removes valuable farmland from production and thereby does not serve the basic principles of productivity and food security. Regarding the interpretation of the greening component, the NMS stress that non-compliance with greening obligations should result in sanctions only related to the greening component and not the entire direct support. Moreover, the NMS call for a broadened list of “green by definition” exemptions to involve all relevant situations and thereby keeping administrative costs at reasonable level. The Common Statement also shows the interest of increasing the area obligation for crop diversification to 20 ha as well as that of maintaining permanent grassland to be applied at regional level instead of farm level.

On the whole, it is evident that these proposals would further water down the original ideas of the Commission. It seems that NMS keep their interests simple in the course of debate: retain the status quo as much as possible. Although it is always convenient not to change, the question here is whether it is a good strategy these days to sit back and be convenient.

This post was written by Attila Jambor.

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