Rapporteurs Draft Amendments: State of Play
The European Parliament draft rapporteur reports on the Commission’s legislative proposals were officially released in late May and early June. Following this, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos instigated and chaired a discussion among expert stakeholders at a high level conference, Shaping the Future of the Common Agricultural Policy, on 20 June. The conference began with an exchange of views between the three European Parliament rapporteurs, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Michel Dantin and Giovanni La Via and a representative from the European Commission, the Commissioner’s Chef de Cabinet, Georg Häusler.
The discussion at the conference made it clear that there are few, if any, enthusiastic supporters of the Commission’s proposals, but equally that no real alternative has been proposed as yet. The large number of relatively small details being discussed indicate that the time appears to have passed for debates of big principle as the reports and discussion at this conference centred around a pragmatic collection of detailed policy adjustments.
The most active discussions among stakeholders concerned direct payments, particularly the redistribution and convergence of payments and the proposed greening measures; whilst the proposals for the EAFRD remain the poor cousin to direct payments, in that most commentary and debate only mentioned it briefly:
Direct Payments: Capoulas Santos proposes a more significant redistribution rate than the Commission proposals, arguing that no Member State should receive less than 65 per cent of the EU average by 2018, noting that this would require additional redistribution of Pillar One funds to those Member States furthest below the EU average. On the rate of convergence towards regionalised payments, Capoulas Santos recommends a slower convergence in which no recipient loses more than 30 per cent of their historic payments in the period up to 2020. This mirrors the concerns of many Member States, who argue that the proposed convergence to a flat-rate regional average payment is too fast, especially when combined with the 30 per cent greening payment which would also be paid at a flat rate in each Member State.
The Greening Measures: In essence Capoulas Santos appears to be supportive of the Commission’s proposals, putting forward amendments to the regulatory text largely in keeping with the flexibility intimated to be acceptable by the Commission in their recent concept paper. Unlike the Commission, however, his amendments appear to break the requirement that compliance with the green direct payments should be linked to receipt of the basic payment. This would effectively weaken the mandatory nature of the green direct payments, with farmers more likely to treat them as optional. However, Häusler was adamant that green measures had to be compulsory to avoid ‘emptying the measure of meaningful greening in some Member States’. Speculation at the high level conference was that the Commission will lose this battle. Instead, Capoulas Santos proposes that any funds for the greening payment that went unspent could be transferred to the agri-environment-climate measure under Pillar Two. On flexibility, Capoulas Santos proposes changes to the content rather than the principle of the Commission’s approach of a fixed number of compulsory greening measures. For example, he has proposed a new measure for permanent crops rather than them being included within the EFA requirements. In a bid to achieve a simpler policy, both Capoulas Santos and Conservative MEP, Giovanni La Via are eager to exempt more farmers from the greening actions. Capoulas Santos proposes that only farmers with more than 20 ha (occupying 80 per cent of EU UAA) should be required to provide the seven per cent EFA. It is rumoured that this will be negotiated with the Commission so that farmers with holdings below 15 ha will be exempt. Furthermore, Capoulas Santos proposes that farms between 5 and 20 ha should only be required to have two (not three) crops under the crop diversification measure.
Rural Development: Capoulas Santos argues that the guidance that Member States should allocate 25 per cent of Pillar Two funds for climate and environmental measures should be increased to 30 per cent and become a formal requirement and included within the legislative text, proposing that this figure should not include spending on Areas of Natural Constraint. However, it is believed that the Commission is not prepared to move on this and this is also not supported by most Member States.
The deadline for amendments to the draft rapporteur reports by MEPs has now passed, with nearly 7,000 amendments tabled, a third of which are on the direct payments regulation. These will be voted on in the autumn, but the whole package will not be put to the Plenary, nor maybe COMAGRI, until the Multiannual Financial Framework is clarified. Meanwhile the Cypriot Presidency is taking forward the discussion with Ministers.
19 Jul 2012