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DAFC political priorities during the Estonian Presidency, fall 2017

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC) in Brussels lists five top priorities during the Estonian Presidency.

The future EU ambition level and EU budget to be better alligned
The future of the EU is a high priority on the European agenda. The Commission’s white paper on the future of Europe, and the subsequent reflection paper on EU finances show that there is significant pressure to finance new initiatives in support of refugees and migrants, the struggle against terrorism and mutual defense.
In this context, it is important to allign the political ambitions for EU 2025 with the available EU resources. Strengthening the EU in the areas of justice and defense policy should not lead to a weakening of the EU's internal market for agricultural products, the strength of which is build on the Common Agricultural Politicy (CAP).
The CAP includes different instruments in various countries, but on the key issue of direct payments (CAP pilar I) recources are only drawn from the common EU budget. It is paramount to keep this principle – the common C in the CAP. The alternative – additional national state aid to the farmers in some countries – would undermine fair competition within the internal market. This would have serious negative consequences for the agriculture and food sector in a small open economy such as Denmark, jepordizing critical trade and export flows.

Denmark obtains some flexibility on EU climate targets whilst pressure shifts away from agriculture
The European Parliament has voted and the Council is foreseen to reach a common position by mid-October: The EU’s 2030 climate policy starts to take form outside the ETS. Denmark has obtained 6% points ETS and LULUCF flexibility within its 39% domestic reduction target. The DAFC welcomes this. In spite of pressure to reduce flexibility amounts, most sceptical voices have been convinced that Danish climate friendly agricultural production should continue and expand. We are part of the solution, a sustainable intensification of EU agriculture, and we still wish to promote climate certification with a view to raising the level in countries lagging behind.

The DAFC also welcomes that the Parliament in June adopted an amendment to make Member States’ access to ETS-flexibility conditional on them committing “to taking measures in other sectors where insufficient results have been achieved in the past’. This sends an important political signal to focus efforts on doing more where most is needed during the upcoming national implementation of the regulation. We encourage the Council to support the the Parliament on this point in the upcoming trilogue negotiations, and call on the Parliament to also stand by its demand that, by 2019, the Commission shall suplement the ESR regulation “setting out a list of such measures and sectors”.

Modernization of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after Brexit
The debate about the CAP post 2020 has begun. More than 322.000 farmers, citizens and NGOs participated in the Commission’s hearing this spring on modernization and simplification of the CAP – one of the oldest politicies in the EU, turning 70 by 2022.

There are many visions for a renewed CAP, which is increasingly seen as a means to further sustainability and climate-friendly production. Hence, the CAP is also partly seen as a means to compensate for more ambitious political demands on EU agriculture and the effects of the very uneven national distribution of EU climate targets outside the ETS.

However, Brexit creates a gap of some 10-13 billion euros a year in the EU budget. Moreover, Brexit risks hitting EU agriculture and food exports to the UK very hard.

The DAFC sees a common European agricultural policy with a strong budget as a crucial protection against renationalization of state aid within EU agriculture. For a small open economy such as Denmark, a strong and common CAP is furthermore a precondition for making use of possibly the most important aspect of our country’s EU membership – access to the internal market and EU trade agreements with the rest of the world, which Denmark could not negotiate on its own. The political agreement on a free trade with Japan is just one example of the EU’s charished trade policy.

The CAP forms a major part of the EU budget – currently some 40%. Becaurse it is common. Agricultural support is put in one place thus avoiding the unequal trading regimes that would emerge were Member States to be allowed to support farmers differently from country to country. When debating the cost of the CAP, it is therefore most adequate to adress expenses in the context of total public expenditure within the EU. The CAP amounts to some 1% of this expenditure.

The need to break silos between research themes in the next framework programme
The world’s biggest framework programe for research – Horizon 2020 – is the subject of a mid-term review and Council conclusions in December. The DAFC welcomes that the programe has become easier to administor than its predecessors, but calls for further modernization after 2020. Horizon 2020 is currently very thematically focused, for example within agricultural research. However, it has turned out to be difficult to address challenges and opportunities that cross-cut themes – eg. food research in companies. Such research is particularly important in industrial clusters like the Danish food cluster, where new symbiosis’ occur. Hence the DAFC calls on policy makers to adress this shortfall in the next framework programe.

Revise the Water Framework Directive and establish new guidelines for the Habitats Directive
In follow-up to the forthcoming evaluation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in 2019, the DAFC urges the Commission to radically revise it. There is a need to establish realistic and more nuanced goals for the ecological status within EU water bodies.This calls for a more holistic approach when evaluating existing conditions and efforts. Furthermore, new guidelines for 2018 for the Habitats Directive ought to provide for a more flexible implementation of the rules concerning licenses for plans and projects in the countryside.

Danish Agiculture & Foos Council in Brussels

Annette Toft

Tobias Gräs