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The Twenty-seven ask Brussels for more urgent measures to calm the anger of the countryside

2024-02-26T19:23:36.022Z

Highlights: The Twenty-seven ask Brussels for more urgent measures to calm the anger of the countryside. EU agriculture ministers have met to discuss how to ease the bureaucratic burden amid a tractor protest that has blocked the center of the Belgian capital. The short-term proposals presented by Brussels to simplify some environmental requirements that farmers must meet to benefit from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, the so-called conditionality, “are going in the right direction (…) but they are not enough”, summarized the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, David Clarinval.


EU agriculture ministers have met to discuss how to ease the bureaucratic burden amid a tractor protest that has blocked the center of the Belgian capital. The Spanish Luis Planas considers that the Commission must “accelerate” the reforms


The Twenty-Seven are concerned about the rural protests that do not cease in almost all EU Member States and look to Brussels to provide a quick remedy, especially in view of the fact that there are less than three months left for a European election where this unrest can have a strong weight at the polls.

Surrounded, literally, by almost a thousand tractors and farmers who once again showed the anger of the sector at the doors of the European institutions, the Ministers of Agriculture welcomed this Monday the first proposals launched by the European Commission to alleviate the bureaucratic burden of the field, but they have demanded more actions and, as the Spaniard Luis Planas has said, in a more “accelerated” way.

The short-term proposals presented by Brussels to simplify some environmental requirements that farmers must meet to benefit from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, the so-called conditionality, “are going in the right direction (…) but they are not enough” , summarized the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, David Clarinval, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council this semester.

As indicated, the States arrived with more than 500 proposals, including the demand for more flexible rules in the review of national strategic plans, to the meeting on Monday, marked by a new agricultural protest that has led the police to use gas. tear gas and water cannons to prevent the protesters from passing to where the ministers were meeting.

Last week, the European Commission proposed the relaxation of several of the so-called good agricultural and environmental conditions (BCAM), the minimum requirements for environmental and climate commitment, of a mandatory nature, to receive the direct payments provided for in the CAP.

“The Council (the States) invites the Commission to quickly complete this set of measures with other more ambitious ones,” said Clarinval, according to whom the Twenty-seven are aware of the “frustration” in the field and agree that the “complexity” ” of the issue requires measures “with a concrete impact in the short, medium and long term”, starting with “flexible conditionality” in terms of cropland rotation, minimum soil cover in sensitive periods and, also, on the fallow lands.

The Belgian minister, who has stressed that we must take into account, among others, the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine and the new environmental ambitions of the Green Deal in the new CAP that will govern until 2027, has also highlighted the demand of several States to support an “increase in de minimis aid” (low-amount State aid compatible with the European market and therefore not requiring authorization from Brussels) for the sector.

Upon his arrival at the Council of Ministers, Planas had advanced his intention to ask the Commission to “accelerate in those points where it is necessary to modify a legislative instrument, to quickly make a proposal so that even before the end of this legislature, in an accelerated procedure, the European Council and Parliament are in a position to adopt it.”

According to Planas, although there are less than one hundred days left for the European elections, “technically there is a possibility” for the Commission to accelerate legislation and give a “response, especially to the elements of conditionality”, as a way to “reestablish” the “broken” trust of farmers in their political representatives, both in the capitals of the Member States and in Brussels.

“We cannot fall short,” he warned.

02:13

Statements by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Statements by Luis Planas upon his arrival at the Council of Ministers of Agriculture

For his part, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, has spoken out in favor of making some cross-compliance rules voluntary, within the framework of the so-called eco-regimes (annual direct payments to farmers who accept, voluntarily, the implementation of environmental practices).

According to the Pole, this route would facilitate the acceptance of the environmental measures added to the CAP, "because incentivizing is always better than imposing."

The idea is welcomed by the representatives of the agricultural organizations who met at the end of the Agriculture Council with Wojciechowski and Clarinval: “It is a measure worth thinking about,” said José María Castilla, representative of the agricultural employers' association in Brussels. Spanish Asaja and who participated in the union meeting.

A man lassoes an object during the farmers' protest, this Monday in Brussels.

YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

Farmers protest in front of the European Council headquarters, this Monday in Brussels.

BENOIT DOPPAGNE / Belga Press / (BENOIT DOPPAGNE / Belga Press / )

A man burns a pyre of tires a few meters from the headquarters of the European Council, during the farmers' mobilization this Monday in Brussels.

Paula García-Ajofrín (EFE)

A group of farmers throw objects at the police this Monday in the center of Brussels.YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

A group of farmers burn tires during the protest outside the European Council headquarters, this Monday in Brussels.

YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

Dozens of tractors remain stopped in the center of Brussels this Monday during farmers' protests.

Nicolas Landemard (AP)

A farmer burns a Russian flag during protests in Brussels, this Monday.

YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

A truck with pressure water cannons is used by police during farmers' protests in Brussels, this Monday.

Harry Nakos (AP)

Like the Extraordinary Council of Heads of State and Government of the EU on February 1, this Monday's meeting of ministers has been accompanied by a tractor trailer that has collapsed the European neighborhood of Brussels.

“We fight for our future,” summed up, between coughs from the tear gas fired by the police, a 26-year-old Belgian farmer, the fifth generation to work on a family farm for which he, he assures, sees less and less of a future.

The protest of the European countryside, which began in Germany and now continues in Spain, after having spread to multiple EU States - on Saturday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated the great annual agricultural event in Paris, the Salon de Agriculture, in the midst of strong tensions and protests, has different grievances at its origin.

But there is a common line in all the protests that converge in Brussels, according to Christiane Lambert, co-president of Copa-Cogeca, the main European agricultural union umbrella, which claims to represent 22 million farmers throughout the EU: “The ignoring they do authorities to the demands and complaints” of a sector that has been overwhelmed, he maintains, by a “total avalanche of regulations”, especially since the approval of the European Green Deal – which Copa-Cogeca describes as a “regulatory tsunami” – and the inclusion of the green transition in the new CAP that is difficult for them to understand and, above all, to comply with at the established rates, something that the States and Brussels now assure that they want to resolve.

In addition to immediate measures to simplify environmental requirements and reduce the administrative burden on farmers, the European Commission has announced that it will reduce inspections of crops and farms.

In the longer term, he has announced that he is studying asking the Member States to review the basic regulations of the CAP to facilitate the work, especially of small farmers.

These measures come after a first concession, when at the end of January he proposed a temporary repeal of the requirement to leave a minimum percentage of land fallow each year, and at a time when a “strategic dialogue” on the future of agriculture in in which a group of experts, organizations and representatives of the field – although, according to the protesters, not enough – seek longer-term solutions for the sector.

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Source: elparis

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