Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Green confusion

Agra Europe reports that support has been building in recent weeks for the idea of member states being offered a menu of options for the ‘greening’ of the CAP post-2013, with a majority of member states backing the plan. But EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos took the opportunity at last week’s Farm Council meeting to speak out against taking this route, pushing instead for the principle of greening ‘equivalence’.

Ciolos argued that if member states were allowed to effectively pick and choose which environmental actions would be eligible for the ‘greening’ component of the new direct aid scheme, there woud be a risk of creating an unequal state of affairs across the bloc. Some actions which certain member states may deem appropriate for their particular situation may be more or less ‘beneficial’ to the environment than those implemented in others, for example. An alternative view would be that such an approach is compatible with the notion of subsidiarity.

The proposed menu option, which also drew the ire of environmental groups last week, goes against Ciolos’s ideal that 'quality and consistency' should apply across the EU27 when it comes to the next CAP. The three EU-wide measures that the Commission is proposing for the ‘greening’ elements of the direct payment scheme might also be seen as fitting better with the Commission’s push for 'simplification' of the CAP.

This disagreement between the Commission and member states highlights the fact that the EU farm sector is not as united as the Commission no doubt hoped it would be at this stage. But with 27 diverse member states with differing climates, farmland types and political systems around the table – and against the backdrop of one of the worst financial crises Europe has ever seen - the Commission will almost certainly need to show some flexibility. Or to put it another way, there will have to be another messy and incoherent compromise in order to secure agreement.

These greening proposals have always been ill thought through in my view and risk a lose-lose outcome of damaging farm businesses whilst not helping the environment.

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