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Signifiant progress was achieved in December in the path towards a new CAP, with final approval of both the multiannual budget (2021-2027) and the transition regulation provided by the European Council and Parliament.

In addition, negotiations kicked off between the Council, Parliament and Commission on the final shape of the reformed CAP. However these talks almost immediately stalled, as the Commission came into conflict with MEPs and Agriculture Ministers for its assertation that the proposals do not go far enough in implementing the objectives of the EU Green Deal- to reduce climate emissions, reduce the use of inputs, promote biodiversity and encourage a switch to organic farming.

Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, responsible for the implementation of the EU Green Deal portfolio, in an unprecedented move, inserted himself in to the CAP negotiations between agriculture MEPs, national agriculture ministers and Commissioner for Agriculture Wojciechowski, and threatened to withdraw the CAP proposal if the level of ambition in environmental sustainability wasn’t increased.

This conflict is a result of the backwards timetable of these proposals- the CAP reform proposal was published in 2018, and has been under discussion and review by Member States and MEPs for over two years, while the Green Deal, which the CAP is now supposed to implement, was only published in 2019 and specifically its agricultural objectives published under the Farm to Fork strategy just last May. Discussions on the Farm to Fork strategy and its objectives remain in the early stages and no impact assessment has been undertaken on the proposal to determine its feasibility nor implications for farmers, consumers or the environment.

Responding to calls from agricultural sector for clarity on the future of the CAP reform, Timmermans met with the Copa Cogeca Praesidia, including ICOS’s Jerry Long, on December 3rd. At the meeting, it was emphasised to the Commission Vice President that at this time of great instability and with the looming prospect of a no deal Brexit and continuous hardship posed by the COVID-19 crisis, the farming sector needed clarity and stability in order to be able to plan ahead and continue investing in improved production methods.

In response, Timmermans reiterated the need for the environmental ambition of the proposals to be increased, however reassured that a withdrawal of the CAP proposal was not being considered at the moment, as he sees room to achieve this within the current negotiations. In addition, the Commission will now also issue recommendations for each Member State on the necessary actions they should undertake within their National CAP Strategic Plan, in order to achieve EU level targets proposed in the Green Deal strategies. These recommendations are not expected to be binding nor to set quantitate targets, but are to act as guidance.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive