Environmentalists protest: European Parliament is committed to controversial agricultural reforms in EU politics

After an uphill battle, the European Parliament has adopted its position on the multi-billion dollar EU agricultural policy reform. The majority of MEPs on Friday adopted a proposal for the upcoming negotiations with member states on agricultural policy after 2022. They called, among other things, for a higher minimum share of EU agricultural support to be reserved for environmental programs. However, there was massive criticism from environmental associations.

During the week, the EU parliament voted on hundreds of amendments to the controversial agricultural reform. The Greens, Left and the German SPD had announced in advance not to vote for the project. 425 MPs ultimately voted in favor of the central proposal, 212 against and 51 abstained.

Like the EU Agriculture Ministers, Parliament was in favor of maintaining the current system, which is mainly based on area-dependent direct payments to farms. More than ever, the funds will be linked to environmental requirements.

About 30 percent of direct payments are only paid when farmers participate in environmental programs. The agreement of the agriculture ministers provides for 20 percent here. In addition, according to the parliamentary resolution, at least 35 percent of the funds earmarked for rural development must go to climate and environmental protection.

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The common agricultural policy (CAP) makes up more than a third of the EU budget. In the budget proposal for 2021 to 2027, 387 billion of the 1,074 billion euros has been reserved for this. Germany is entitled to approximately EUR 42 billion.

Originally, the new CAP should apply from next year. However, delays in budget negotiations have messed up planning. The planned start date is now early 2023.

Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner (CDU) welcomed the parliamentary decision. “We have the same goal,” she said. “We want to combine food security with greater protection of the environment, species and climate.” The German Farmers’ Union supported the basic thrust but criticized “technically flawed” specifications for non-productive areas and crop rotation.

“Nature and climate are big losers in the vote on EU agricultural policy,” warned conservation association Nabu. “The Brussels decision means that a large part of the tax money continues to harm nature and the climate.”

Greenpeace spoke of a “death sentence for small farms”

WWF Germany criticized a “business as usual for European agriculture”. This threatens to “bankrupt” the climate protection strategy of the European Commission’s Green Deal. Greenpeace spoke of a “death sentence for small farms and nature”. The organization asked the European Commission to withdraw its proposal and start the process again.

For days there was a massive campaign by environmentalists against the reform. Activists like Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer called on MEPs via social networks to reject the reform.

The German SPD in the European Parliament decided to vote against the reform plans in the short term. “Our red lines were almost all torn,” said Deputy Speaker of Parliament Katarina Barley before the vote. A significant proportion of the Social Democrats from other countries voted for the reform.

“Not a last word has yet been spoken about the agricultural reform,” said Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). She was referring to the same day decisions of the EU’s environment ministers, some of which set wider landscape protection goals. (AFP)

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