As the CAP reform negotiations continue, the Parliament and the Council are following different routes in managing the process. As the Council enters into basic political agreements on the level of working groups over specific areas of the policy, the Parliament is still working on compromises which could bring stable majority votes at Committee level before the reform project is discussed in plenary.
Last week, the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (COMAGRI) announced its decision to delay their final vote on the CAP reform. Initially scheduled for their November meeting, it has now been moved to the first Committee meeting of 2013 on January 23/24.
There are a number of reasons for this delay. Firstly, the process of amalgamating the over 7,500 amendments made to the Commission’s original proposal is no easy feat. This process must be carried out to provide a number of smaller compromise amendments on which Committee members can vote, and which are then potentially negotiable with the Council in trialogue. Secondly, there has been a request from a deputy to translate all compromise texts into every EU language. With the compromises likely to be reached by mid-December, it should only be possible to have this completed in time for the January meeting. Thirdly, it has been suggested that the delay in the Council finding an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget parameters for 2014-20 has further slowed the process as the Committee’s majority groups still believe that the figures available for the CAP must come first, before the committee can definitely propose a project for the reform
Either way, the vote will now take place in a different year, under a different Council presidency, with important elections approaching such as Germany in September.
Council of European Union
At the last Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on October 22, under the Cypriot presidency, extensive discussion was held on the redistribution of direct aid. Here, a large number of Members States challenged the Commission’s plan to shift aid from historical payments to area-based payments, set up at a regional and national level by 2019. There are concerns that there would be a loss of income in highly productive areas as money is redistributed within states. Italy, Ireland and Spain called for a longer transition period, whilst Belgium and Austria demanded that the individual states be able to take greater control of the distribution process.
Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş is standing firm on his view that a shift away from historical payments is required in order to ensure a fairer agricultural policy, but is now suggesting that greater flexibility could be introduced if the right of all farmers to be competitive is ensured. The Commissioner has also stated clearly that he would not accept a greenwashing of his proposals on environmental conditions to direct payments (greening).
The next Council meeting will take place on November 28/29, a week after Heads of State are due to meet to discuss the overall EU Budget for the next financial period: 2014 – 2020. At present, France, Spain and Italy are the states pushing strongest to maintain and protect the CAP budget. However, with Germany, the UK and the Netherlands calling for substantial cuts in the budget across the board, we can expect a tough battle over money in the following few weeks.
For more information on the budget see a recent video from viEUws:
Following the vote in the Agriculture Committee in January, the position will then face a plenary vote in the March sitting. Here, compromises with other Committees such as the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) must be reached. This is an opportunity for a more democratic decision to be made as the decision goes beyond those in COMAGRI: greening and public money for public goods must be pushed at the March plenary.
Following this vote, the trialogue discussions between Council, Parliament and the Commission will begin in earnest.