The European Commission is at loggerheads with the other two bodies at the top of the EU – the European Parliament and the European Council – over the length of the transition period for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

At the end of June, it was announced that a two-year long extension to programmes under CAP had been provisionally agreed between the parliament and council.

Under that agreement, programmes supported under CAP would be extended to December 31, 2022, due to the delay in agreeing the EU budget – officially known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – for 2021 to 2027.

However, the commission is insisting on an extension of only one year, and has said that the possibility that a transition period will be scrapped altogether “remains on the table”.

Speaking at the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture last week, Michael Scannell, deputy director general in the commission for the Directorate-General of Agriculture and Rural Development – and who is Irish – said: “The commission is not in a position to agree to a two-year transition period… The suggestion that the commission may turn on this particular point is not the case.

“The commission has explained at length that the current situation with which we are faced requires a one-year transition period only,” Scannell added.

He explained: “The commission is of the view that the ambition of the Green Deal and the importance of the recovery package require very fast and rapid implementation of the new CAP arrangements.

This explains why the commission continues to insist on a transitional period of one year.

“In that context, we have to remind both the parliament and council that one of the options that remains on the table is the withdrawal of the proposal [for transitional regulations],” Scannell signalled.

2021 funding

While the future funding levels for CAP beyond 2021 remain unclear at best, the commission did recently announce funding allocations for next year.

At the end of last month, it was announced that the commission will appropriate some €40 billion for the European Agriculture Guarantee Fund for 2021, the pot of funds which is used to provide Pillar I payments (direct payments) under CAP.

The commission has decided to allocate €55.8 billion altogether to its agriculture and maritime policy. In addition to this (under the budget heading of Natural Resources and Environment), the commission will allocate €429.3 million for environment and climate action.

This will be reinforced by around €7.3 billion from the EU’s new recovery instrument, ‘Next Generation EU’. This gives a total funding figure for Natural Resources and Environment of €63.5 billion, with some €55 billion going to CAP payments.

The figure allocated to direct payments (Pillar I) for 2021 is €40.1 billion. Meanwhile, the total figure for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (which funds Pillar II payments), has been set at €14.7 billion for 2021.