The decision by the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (ComAgri) to delay a vote on laying out its official position on CAP reform until the beginning of next year once again brings into question whether an agreement can be made in time for the new policy to be implemented by the start of 2014. Indeed, for some time I have thought this very unlikely.
Although an official date for the vote was never set, it was generally considered that one would need to take place either this month or next in order for the Farm Council to have enough time to reach a consensus on its own reform package, and then for ‘trilogue’ talks to be held between EU institutions that will finally result in an agreement for the 2014-2020 CAP budget, reports Agra Europe.
MEPs have made it clear that they will not be pushed into approving the next CAP until the EU’s next long term budget is in place and the generally negative feedback from the Cypriot Presidency’s recent proposal to shave €7 billion off the bloc’s multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 is not an encouraging sign that heads of state will come to a firm agreement by the end of the crunch summit on November 22-23.
Those calling for a freeze or cut in real terms to the EU budget will have seized on the recent European Court of Auditors report, which again found that large sums of budget funds in 2011 were misspent, with rural development spending coming in for particular criticism. This is likely to increase the vulnerability of this form of expenditure to cutbacks given the importance of the single farm payments to the revenue streams of most farmers.
With austerity biting across the EU, and distrust in the institutions growing among the electorate, particularly in the UK, it must now be time for the European Commission to push through improved measures of accountability and transparency on how funds are being spent.