Gang of Five Block Council Conclusions on CAP Communication
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council has failed to agree on CAP conclusions, after agriculture ministers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia refused to sign a joint declaration with the remaining 23 ministers yesterday (Monday 19th March).
It has, however produced a puzzling document which glosses over the dispute between Member States, which envisages an environmentally ambitious and sustainable future CAP, and somehow does so all within the strict confines of the current CAP framework. Business-as-usual seems to be the plan.
Discord revolved primarily around the unequal distribution of agricultural subsidies across EU Member States, with Eastern European countries receiving substantially lower payments.
“There is a difference between the average amount paid per hectare, a difference which comes into play when we talk about ‘new’ and ‘old’ member states,” said the Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture, Rumen Porodzanov, in the Council press conference. As we reported Monday, the Baltic states have, with Poland, called for full external convergence of direct payments.
EU Observer reports that the text would have been called ‘council conclusions’ if it had been unanimously supported, but it is now described as ‘presidency conclusions’.
European Count of Auditors Slams CAP performance. Again.
The disappointing Council and flat corresponding document, sat in stark contrast with the firmly-worded briefing paper also published this week by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on the Future of CAP. In the run-up to the CAP reform in 2020, the ECA document is a response to the European Commission’s Communication The Future of Food and Farming. Systematically unpicking the Communication and referring to past ECA recommendations, the report condemns current CAP performance. Particular reference is made to the slow progress on environmental action and a lack of ambitious, measurable targets throughout.
‘Agricultural funding may be allocated where it is likely to be fully spent, rather than where it addresses key needs and produces results,’ said João Figueiredo, the Member of ECA responsible for briefing paper, ‘This reflects a culture of spending rather than a culture of performance.’
In particular the report criticised the lack of clear objectives of CAP measures, mentioning in particular the lack of specificity of the greening measures for environmental performance, introduced in the last CAP reform. A lack of quantifiable targets, in terms of output but also for results and impact, makes objectives hard to meet.
It encouraged the proposed performance-based delivery model but stated the communication lacked ambitious and relevant targets. Whilst the Commission has considered past ECA recommendations, the ECA notes a discrepancy in the statistics considered, concluding that “the measures supported are likely to be similar to those supported in the past.”
“While arguing that the EU budget is a performance budget with the possibility to take performance information into account during the budgetary process,” the report states, “the Commission stated in its replies that it did not consider the approach of explicitly linking resources allocated to outputs or results feasible or applicable for the EU budget.” The success of the new model coupling performance with greater flexibility and subsidiarity to Member States requires
- ‘Measures based on sound scientific and statistical evidence, that will clearly deliver the desired results
- Relevant, ambitious and verifiable targets for the new CAP Strategic Plans aligned with EU objectives
- A robust performance monitoring and evaluation framework
- A solid accountability and audit chain, providing assurance on both compliance and performance.’
This follows on from the ECA report on greening, which was also extremely negative about the supposedly environmental element introduced to Pillar 1 of CAP. As we reported recently, only 5% of farmland saw any change due to greening.
The contrast between warm CAP Communication warblings by the Commissioner and the Bulgarian Presidency, one the one hand, which papers over vague targets and real differences and the ECAs absolute shredding of CAP environmental performance could not be more stark.
The Agrifish Council press conference can be found here.
Harriet Bradley (of Birdlife Europe) has been relentless these last few days on Twitter, calling out the #FutureofCAP spin, while lauding the European Count of Auditors for their neutrality an accuracy.
And we’ve kept you right up to date with these EU machinations (Note – its only Tuesday!)