SOFOCLIS Aletraris, Cyprus' minister for agriculture, gave European Union farm ministers an update on the state of negotiations on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the 2014-20 period when they met Dec. 18-19 in Brussels, Belgium.
Aletraris has chaired the EU's Agriculture Council since July. Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Simon Coveney begins chairing the council for the next six months. Coveney said winning approval for the CAP package is a priority for Ireland.
The CAP talks are due to be completed this year. A major issue holding up negotiations is the budget -- how much of the bloc's 1 trillion euro budget for 2014-20 the EU governments are willing to put into farm programs. In November, heads of EU member governments tried, without success, to reach an agreement on the long-term budget. They are due to try again early this year.
Coveney said the farm ministers could still make useful progress as the budget discussion proceed.
"We can build the policy principles, and we will be able to carry on the talks very quickly" once the budget is set, the minister said.
The briefing from Aletraris was "broadly welcomed" by EU farm ministers, the council said following the talks. Ministers saw the briefing as a useful synthesis for Ireland's government to work from.
The farm ministers want the negotiations accelerated, particularly where differences remain. Two major areas of disagreement remain over environmental, or "greening," measures and direct payments. Environmental groups are particularly upset over what they view as a watering down, or "green-washing," of commission proposals on green measures.
The report from Cyprus lays out the main amendments proposed so far to the original CAP reform proposal.
"The presidency's suggested amendments aim to resolve a number of issues raised by delegations, particularly with a view to ensuring that future CAP legislation is workable in practice and can be implemented in a cost-effective manner. The council has made clear several times its determination that the reform should deliver real simplification," the EU said following the council meeting.
The report identifies the key issues where there still is no agreement among farm ministers, distinguishing among three categories: issues where the proposed solution has broad agreement, issues that are still outstanding and the big issues that will only be decided at the head of government level. Often, the latter category is connected to budget matters.
If the farm ministers cannot reach an agreement or if heads of government can't agree on the budget, some governments are already reportedly advancing the idea of a stopgap year for the CAP.
The report from Cyprus is available on the European Commission's website at http://europa.eu.