CAP reform "risks missing environment target"

EEB calls for EU-wide agreement on farm subsidies, environmental conditions, link

The EU is failing to guarantee more sustainable agriculture under European Commission's proposals to reform the common agricultural policy (CAP), a European environmental NGO warned today.

The European Environmental Bureau, which represents NGOs from all over Europe, launched a campaign for greener CAP reform. It specifically called on EU agriculture ministers, who meet next week, to consider making three changes to the CAP reform proposal.

The EEB sees the re-thinking of the CAP as a good opportunity to move away from intensive agriculture. It claims that the potential is likely to be wasted, though, because the Commission's proposal leaves too much decision making power to individual governments.

For example, countries could make some subsidy payment conditional on farmers meeting specific environmental requirements, but would not be required to do so. "This allows the EU to use the Ecu300bn [the proposed CAP budget 2000-2006] to finance environmentally damaging activities," claims the EEB. "The CAP reform should ensure" environmental progress rather than just offering opportunities that might not be taken up by member states, said the EEB's EU policy director Christian Hey.

The EEB wants EU farm ministers to make environmental conditions compulsory when subsidy payments are made to farmers. It also called for the reformed CAP to include EU-wide rules for how payments are made, along with a code of practice for sustainable agriculture.

The group also wants an increase in CAP funding for "rural development," particularly for what are known as "agri-environment" schemes. A third demand is for the Commission to conduct a strategic impact assessment of the reformed CAP so that measures that are not beneficial to the environment can be removed from the package.

EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler, who today presented a comprehensive assessment of the reform's economic impact, said that it would not be possible to perform a similar study for the environmental consequences of the new-look CAP.

He said: "It is up to the member states how they apply the compliance proposals, therefore it is not possible to do an environmental impact assessment." But he added: "Once the reform has been introduced, we will take stock and see what impact there is on the environment."

The EEB wants this "stock-taking" exercise to be enshrined in the text of the new policy so that environmental improvements can be made when the policy is reviewed in the future.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090.

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