60. How could the public sector build a strong farmer-civil society alliance for a greener Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)?

The kick off momentum of the process which resulted this ad-hoc alliance has very likely started at the end of January with the controversial vote of the AGRI Committee of the European Parliament which unfortunately watered down all the promising elements of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform put forward by the Commission. The Council probably came to the same conclusion or took even a worst position under the pressure of the short-term interests. However, we cannot be sure since the Member States are very reluctant to open the doors and show the discussions to the public, as the Parliament does.

(source of the photo © thegreenpages )

And then, the citizens and farmers stood up and went M.A.D.!

In the light of the vote, we could not speak even about a ‘reform’ anymore, so not surprisingly, the general public was not happy at all with the outcomes. Thus, people get angry, cried out that ‘The CAP is being reformed right now!‘ and they launched the campaign ‘go and Meet A Deputy’ (Go M.A.D.) Not surprisingly, the Green MEPs – among others José Bové or Daniel Cohn-Bendit – were at the top of that movement . This was the first sign that not only the majority of the population but farmers themselves are not happy with the backwards of the ‘reform’.

How could be simply demonstrated that the AGRI vote went against the greening?

Although the EU legislation provides a unique and legally binding framework (acquis communautaire) and member states are obliged to implement EU pieces of legislations such as the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC or the Directive 2009/128/EC about the sustainable use of pesticides, the AGRI committe simply deleted them as requirement for farmers to get financial support under the CAP. (see amendments 142 and 143 to the regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP) Why? I have no idea since this sends the completely wrong message saying that farmers could get benefits without complying with the EU law. From a legal point of view, I still do not understand it so please do not hesitate to contact me and explain the logic behind this.

Following this, the European Policy Centre (EPC) organised an overall discussion about the CAP reform with the participation of the civil society and farmer representatives. During that debate, both the WWF (on behalf of the civil society) and the COPA-COGECA (on behalf of the farmers) representatives expressed their concerns concerning the bad outcome of the AGRI vote.

Can a piece of legislation lead to a healthy agriculture when it subsidise chronic diseases such as cancer in form of tobacco production?

Another aspect of the mentioned AGRI vote saw the daylight when the British journal ‘The Telegraph’ reported about that ‘MEPs plan tobacco subsidies as Brussels fights smoking’ . In a very hidden and clever way, MEPs voted in favour of a seemingly technical amendment (Amendment 72 for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy) which would make possible re-introduce the tobacco subsidies which were phased out in 2010. Meanwhile, the new health Commissioner Tonio Borg fulfilled his promise and launched the revision of the current Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC).

Then, the second partial common understanding has been reached at the end of February, when the Representation of the free state of Bavaria organised a second round of discussion where the COPA-COGECA Secretary General, Pekka Pesonen highlighted at least 3 times that farmers were never against the greening of the CAP. They always accepted it – and it was a pleasure to hear that statement

The civil society unified

I have not seen too often a cause which could assembly so swift so many organisations. But due to the AGRI vote, this time it happened: more than 250 NGOs representing very various patterns and interested unified and expressed their wish for a greener and fairer CAP in their recently published open letter

On the road to the plenary vote

Every day we can see that the pressure coming from the ordinary citizens – who provided MEPs with the legitimacy through direct and general elections in 2009 – is becoming stronger and the wish for a sustainable and green CAP is rising. As you may know, there is an ongoing on-line public discussion (and vote) about the CAP reform with the participations of the civil society and farmers and the partial result at the time of the writing of this sentence clearly shows that the desire for a green CAP is evident (94,3%). I am convinced that this is because the farmers themselves have completely understood that a green CAP is in their best interest and they also voted for this.

The best examples for this approach are the organic farmers who are already ready to build a sustainable agriculture even without the financial support of CAP. We can be pretty sure that their market will grow when European citizens realises the benefits of eating healthy food.

And the final demonstration of the solidarity between farmers will be clearly visible on the week of the CAP vote, on the ‘Decision day’ when participants will openly cook a ‘Good CAP Soup’ wishing Farms instead of factories

We can see that ironically, the wrong direction taken by the AGRI committee facilitated a never seen alliance between farmers and the civil society. The civil and the majority of the private sector (farmers) have understood the importance of building a greener, more sustainable CAP. Now, the time has come for the decision makers to receive the message coming from the society. It is never too late to do the right thing. Legally, only the plenary vote can be considered as the official EP position. Is the EP ready to vote in favour of a greener and more sustainable CAP?

I remain at your disposal.

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