EU agri-budget ‘not a honey pot for all and sundry’

The proposed new EU budget – the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – has come in for heavy criticism from the chairperson of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Norbert Lins, from Germany, made the comments during a meeting of the committee on Monday, February 17. Though the MFF proposal was not on the agenda for that meeting, Lins addressed the issue briefly at the outset of the meeting.

“You’ve no doubt heard that there has been a new proposal concerning the [European Council] summit on Thursday [tomorrow, February 20] concerning the MFF. You’ve not doubt heard also that there’s another cut of a further €5 billion,” he commented.

That means that compared with the period 2014 to 2020 – if you leave the UK out, which makes sense of course – you end up with a minus figure of more than €35 billion [in the MFF].

“I think many would agree with me if I say that this is not an acceptable offer, and we need a substantial improvement on that,” Lins argued.

He continued: “The agricultural budget is not a honey pot for all and sundry, and so the member states need to add more to what they are offering, and not make any confusions between the new policies and the ‘modern policies’, as they are called.”

Lins argued that a proposal like the one being tabled risks a “greater division” within the EU.

I’m sure many of you would agree with me on this; that this proposal is not acceptable.

Documents from the European Council show that its president, Belgium’s Charles Michel, is proposing a cut to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) portion of the MFF of around €53 billion, or 14% – after the UK is discounted.

This proposal has the drawn the ire of not only sections of the European Parliament, but also agricultural lobby groups around Europe, including Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that, during tomorrow’s summit on the MFF proposal, he will be arguing that CAP funding “should be maintained to at least its existing level”.

We face a real battle, as many other countries want to reduce the budget for CAP and divert it to other areas.

“I will be arguing in Brussels that CAP funding should be maintained to at least its existing level,” the Taoiseach said.