“Green” CAP rollback right as scientists warn about the need for urgent and decisive action

Today the European Commission weakened the few remaining environmental requirements in the current ‘green’ CAP[1], by removing conditionalityturning previously basic conditions that farmers must fulfil to receive funding into voluntary practices[2]. This decision comes in the same week that the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a first-of-its-kind EU climate risk assessment, warning that without urgent and decisive action the risks could become “catastrophic”[3].  

What’s changed? 

This includes requirements for farmers to leave part of their farm fallow to promote biodiversity (GAEC 8) and ensure good practices such as soil cover (GAEC 6), low tillage (GAEC 5), crop rotation (GAEC 7). It also bluntly exempts all farms below 10 ha from any conditionality rule or controls.  

These decisions were made without any impact assessment or proper public consultation, completely going against the Commission’s own internal procedures. Even worse, this (according to the background justification of the proposal) was done on a partial consultation with vested interests only, essentially asking the ones who receive the money (most likely the 20% beneficiaries receiving the 80% of the budget) what change they want to see in the conditions they have to fulfil to receive their payments. This goes completely against sound management of public money and is simply antidemocratic.  

More concerning still is the potential for amendments to the procedure for CAP Strategic Plans (CSP), in particular, articles 120 and 159. 

The process of amending CSPs – already far from transparent and inclusive – will be even less so as Member States can now amend their CSP twice a year with more flexible rules and less scrutiny from the Commission. 

If article 120 is removed, Member States will also no longer be obliged to ensure that their plans are in line with the latest changes in existing environmental policies. Further to this, if article 159 is removed, the Commission will no longer be required to update the list of environmental/health legislation that CSPs must comply with, meaning the latest rules and requirements will be missed. This simply means that Member States won’t have to ensure that the spending of billions of EUR of public money remains in line with environmental and human health safeguards. This potentially goes against the Treaty of Amsterdam and the requirement for all sectorial policies to duly integrate the latest environmental policies. 

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Director for Nature, Health and Environment at the EEB said:  

It is staggering that in the very same week scientists warn that Europe is unprepared for rapidly growing climate risks, the European Commission – without any impact assessment or proper public consultation – axes the requirement for EU countries to implement the few measures left in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that are designed to build farm resilience in the face of the environmental and climate crises. Even worse, it goes as far as proposing that CAP Strategic Plans may be non-compliant with new pieces of environmental legislation, potentially going against basic principles under the Treaty.  

Not only will this endanger the future viability of European farming and food security, but it also erodes the legitimacy of the CAP, jeopardising its own future existence. Without conditionality, a lot of public money is passed along with no strings attached and certainly no requirement to transition to sustainable farming practices. Only those with vested interests stand to gain (after all 80% of CAP subsidies are given to just 20% of farms), but even they won’t benefit in the long run. 

This decision brings into question the social acceptability and legitimacy of the CAP. Can EU citizens continue to accept that +/- 55 billion EUR/year of taxpayer’s money (approximately one-third of the EU budget) is put towards maintaining practices that according to science are responsible for damaging human and environmental health as well as threatening Europe’s chances of staying within international climate targets?  


Notes to editor 

[1] Commission Memo on the package of support to EU farmers

[2] Conditionality explained 

[3] EEA EU climate risk assessment

Analysis of the recent protests and reaction 

Vision paper for post-2027 CAP: A brighter future for EU food and farming  

Joint report on CAP Strategic Plans: New CAP unpacked and unfit  

“Green” CAP rollback right as scientists warn about the need for urgent and decisive action
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