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DAFC political priorities for the European Parliament, spring 2018

TOP FIVE: DAFC’s political priorities for the European Parliament, spring 2018

A sufficient EU-budget for a modernized common agricultural policy
In 2017, the future of the EU has been discussed as a part of the debate on the next multiannual financial framework of the EU (MFF). The context of the EU budget for the years after 2020 partly consists of strong political wishes for new expenditures for initiatives addressing the eurozone (safeguards against future crisis, fiscal stabilizers, support for expanding the number eurozone members), migration (strengthening of external boarders as well as a distribution of refugees) and defence (military and industry) and partly includes a budgetary challenge after Brexit.

In addition, French-German wishes to expand contributions to the EU’s research programe Horizon2020, including its section on food research, alongside satisfaction with existing policies such as the common agricultural policy – most recently expressed in a common declaration by the German CDU/CSU and SPD – are significant. The previously severely criticized common agricultural policy has been praised by the World Bank, which refers to it as an example of policy that 1) contributes to reducing poverty 2) supports increased production while keeping the emissions of climate gasses down. Brexit, however, leaves the EU with an annual budget deficit of 12 billion euro. 

Danish farmers risk large economic losses through drastic cuts in direct payments, if the Commission does not establish consensus on the need for “new funds for new initiatives” and a partial compensation for the Brexit-deficit in the EU budget by increasing national contributions from 1% to 1.1%, which it is likely to propose. DAFC fights to avoid that the shorthall in the EU budget, in the absence of such increased Member States payments to the EU, will be filled by making direct payments subject to national co-financing, and work alongside Copa & Cochega for an enlargement of the EU budget. 

DAFC has welcomed Commissioner Hogan’s thoughts on more flexibility to member states in the implementation of common CAP goals by means of national implementation plans. This creates great potential for voluntary and more tailored arrangements helping to ensure sustainability and competitiveness in agriculture along with more meaningfull initiatives ‘on farm’. It is important to keep focus on simplification and the use of new technology. However, less centralized micromanagement also implies risks in terms of safeguards for the equal competitive environment in the EU if the common goals are not precise enough. Therefore DAFC looks forward to the Commission presenting its proposal for a new common agricultural policy following its proposal for the next multiannual financial framework. Even though the current agricultural policy is praised by the World Bank, it can be improved, and DAFC works to achieve further simplification and reasonable climate initiatives while warning against an undermining of the internal market on agricultural products by introducing partial national co-financing of the direct payment in a tighter EU-budget. 

A future agreement with the UK and free trade agreements with Japan and Mercosur
Negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU has entered its second face on future trade relations. A number of conditions relating to trade policy will need clarification during 2018. Among other things a clarification of the future distribution of EU import quotas. If no solution is found, it will inevitably be EU27 that is stuck with the quotas. One of DAFC’s main priorities is ensuring that UK remains in the custom union and remains part of the internal market for goods. This will partly ensure as smooth a trade relation as possible while partly ensuring that the UK will continue to meet EU standards. The UK has however declared, that it wishes to leave the customs union and enter into separate freetrade agreements with third countries after Brexit. However, the most urgent issue relates to the establishment of a temporary transitional arrangement between EU27 and the UK that ensures that the parties by April 1st 2019 will not have to trade on the basis of the WTO’s regular level of customs tariffs. Such a situation would be devastating for very large parts of Danish exports to the UK from the food and agricultural clusters.

On december 8th 2017, parallelly whilst Brexit negocitations were ongoing, the EU and Japan concluded The Economic Partnership Agreement. This agreement eliminates the major part of customs tariffs for European producers and the agreement is expected to have a positive effect on European exports of agriculture and food products to Japan. DAFC’s attitude towards the agreement is positive and we expect it will be of great importance in terms of exports for the Danish agriculture and food sector. Before the agreement enters into force it has to be legally verified in Japan and the EU, and approved by the European Parliament and the Member States. DAFC calls for a quick and positive approval of the agreement. 

Negotiations with the four South American Mercosur countries have intensified. The largest outstanding issues in the negotiations include EU tariffs on beef, ethanol and sugar. DAFC supports the promotion of free trade and market access as an important pre-condition for growth and job creation in the food sector. On balance, the DAFC’s support for free trade also covers a free trade agreement with Mercosur, condition led on the removal of a number of existing technical barriers and addressing outstanding challenges. 

A sustainable EU climate plan after 2030 – the need for an EU reduction target for agriculture
Following the adoption of the EU climate plan towards 2030, this summer, the Commission follows up with a proposal on a long term strategy towards 2050. DAFC does not believe the existing climate architecture in the EU with 28 different domestic CO2 reduction target is nation goals of reduction as being sustainable in the longer term. Hence, DAFC calls for an agricultural pillar within the EU’s climate policy that is supported by the common agricultural policy, anc covers all farms in the EU. This implies the need for a common EU reduction target for agriculture after 2030. Furthermore, DAFC suggests that the opportunities of the EU climate policy in terms of bio-energy and circular economy are exploited further. Currently, DAFC has entered dialogues with relevant climate stakeholders, including think tanks in Brussels, the Commission and public authorities in Denmark promoting these ideas.

Enhanced transparency in pesticide authorisation
The commission has announced a revision on the legislative procedure on authorisation of pesticides. These new rules shall contribute to enhancing the transparency of the procedure along with better quality assessment and public access to research data. The proposal is a reaction from the Commission to the great debate on the authorization of glyphosate. DAFC believes that there is a need to re-establish trust in the system for authorisation, through the establishment of a system that enjoys a greater level of support among Member States and the general public. DAFC welcomes a revision of the legislative procedure and seeks to achieve that the assessment of pesticides continues to be based on homogeneous and harmonized scientific criteria. The criteria must be based on the contemporary use of pesticides. European crop producers must not be significantly worse off than competitors from third countries – otherwise production will be moved elsewhere.

Necessary revision of the Water Framework Directive
The EU Water Framework Directive will be evaluated in connection with the scheduled fitness check in 2019. DAFC and likeminded sister organisations push for the European Parliament and the European Council to ask the Commission to thoroughly revise the directive. There is an increasingly need to establish more realistic and nuanced goals for the ecological status of EU wetlands, that allow for taking sustainable activities into account, including intensive and sustainable food production. Hence, there is a need for a more holistic approach to the evaluation of ecological status and achievements than the current directive from 2000 allows for. In its current wording, the directive includes an ultimate goal that all wetlands must be in good ecological condition on all ecological quality elements (such as plants, fish, benthic fauna) by 2028 at the latest. No possibilities for target adjustments or deadline scheduling are foreseen. This is why DAFC considers it necessary to thoroughly revise of the directive – the possibilities for adjustments within the fitness check are not sufficient.

Danish Agiculture & Foos Council in Brussels

Annette Toft

Tobias Gräs