Poseł Siekierski

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Poseł Siekierski

European elections may delay implementation of new CAP until 2022

14-03-2018 - Działalność w PE
The European elections in June 2019 will seriously disrupt European decision-making during the middle part of that year, making it difficult for the Parliament to co-legislate on a new CAP in time for the expiry of existing regulations in December 2020.
“We have one year from now, because in March next year the work at the Parliament will stop as the election campaign gets under way,” the chair of ComAgri, Czeslaw Siekierski, told IEG Policy in an exclusive interview this week.
“And if we are not able to introduce those changes to the CAP before March 2019, then we must consider that there is a possibility that the new rules may start to apply no sooner than 2022. There would be a roll-over of one year at least, probably two years.”
Speaking in Strasbourg in the margins of Parliament’s February plenary session, Siekierski said the problem lay partly with the delays in getting the current 2014-2020 CAP off the ground – the final Pillar Two scheme was not approved until the end of 2015 – and partly with the timing of the European election cycle.
“The next Parliament will commence work in Autumn 2019. If we don’t complete the legislative work this year, with a new Parliament starting next year, they will not be able to prepare the work in one year as we have the possibility to do now, because they will lack the experience of this chairman,” said Siekierski, who has chaired ComAgri since the current Parliament took office in Autumn 2014.
Should CAP changes be limited?
The Polish MEP also suggested that the time pressures may end up having an impact on the substance of the final agreement.
“The fact that time is limited dictates a certain approach to the changes to the CAP,” he claimed. “It would be ideal for us to come up with the changes to CAP quickly, as soon as possible, because that would allow more time for the dialogue between the Commission and the member states about strategies.
“So maybe we should narrow down the number of changes to the CAP and limit it to what is mostly being asked for by the member states.”
Siekierski cited action in favour of young farmers and generational renewal, innovation and investment in precision agriculture, and agri-environmental policy, as possible priorities.
The ComAgri chief said his committee was taking action to speed up the political dialogue on the new CAP reform plans by tabling an ‘own-initiative’ report in response to the Communication on the CAP tabled by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan last November. This is being drafted by centre-right Italian MEP Herbert Dorfmann.
“This report is a response to the Communication. The Communication is a general, political statement, and our report is also a political response to this,” Siekierski said, noting that Commissioner Hogan had promised to wait until this report had been adopted before issuing his own legislative proposals for CAP reform later this year, taking the Parliament’s views into account.
“As the Committee on Agriculture, we would like to leave office [in spring 2019] with a finished product already. We do not know yet if our report will make it through the plenary, we must also wait for other inputs from other committees, in order to have an entire package of views from the Parliament.
“If we don’t have all this, everything may be postponed by around two years. But for us, the most important thing is to do what the farmers expect from us.”
Support for Commission’s plans for more subsidiarity
Siekierski was supportive of the Commission’s controversial proposal for each member state to create ‘national strategic plans’, with a mix of policy measures from both Pillar One and Pillar Two. A number of trade associations have expressed concern that this approach could end up creating heavier subsidy in some member states than others, thereby disrupting the single market.
“Some are saying about the current proposals that subsidiarity has been taken too far,” he commented. “This is a wrong understanding - because extensive subsidiarity is a result of the diversified agriculture across Europe, where different instruments are needed in different situations.”
The Pole also detected a sense of alarm in some member states at the political implications of the steps towards greater autonomy in policy-making.
“Member states are beginning to fear this responsibility. It’s not their fault, because until now decisions on policy have been made in Brussels. But now Brussels says to them, you must take a share of the decision-making on how to complete the goals which have been set. And now that they hear that Brussels is trying to delegate work to them, they actually want to have less work!”
Siekierski called on the Commission to honour its pledge to continue the progressive equalisation of average rates of aid between the new and old member states as part of the 2021-27 CAP. This was a process which was started under the 2014-2020 CAP in response to criticisms by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe about disparities in average aid payment rates.
“Payments are being equalised step by step – and this is necessary because we have a common market,” he said. “Equalisation will not go to the level of the highest payment, but it will go to the European average. A small decrease in the payments taken from the largest recipients will provide much more benefit to a much greater number of smaller recipients. This is a very important expectation on the part of the new member states.”
CAP funding ‘should be prioritised’
Another key challenge for the next CAP will be the pressure on funding which will arise from the loss of the UK’s net contribution to the EU after Brexit.
But Siekierski was bullish about the prospects for finding enough money to fund the CAP, despite challenges from other EU priorities, and even hinted that he might support the CAP being given precedence over structural fund spending.
 “Apart from the Brexit gap we have new challenges - security, jobs, climate change, innovation. It will be a very tough task to persuade member states to increase their contributions,” he conceded.
“But I think there are more and more positive answers on the subject. And I am assuming that part of the solution will be an increase in contributions. The CAP is used by all member states, and for that reason there shouldn’t be cuts. It is somewhat different in terms of cohesion policy, since the cohesion policy has already achieved some of its goals.”
UK and EU farm policy ‘should remain aligned’
On the Brexit issue itself, Siekierski commented that the UK’s decision to leave the EU in March 2019 had created “a lot of problems on both sides”.
But he also expressed clear concern over the implications for European agriculture of a possible shift in policy on the UK’s part after Brexit.
“We would like Brexit to be in a form that keeps the status quo as much as possible. We would like trade relations between the UK and EU to be something more than our trade relations with other third countries.
“But we would want the agriculture policies of the two to remain somewhat aligned, to avoid problems with competition and to facilitate agri-trade. And we would not like the UK to give in to the free trade proposals from third countries, because probably many third countries would propose better conditions just to get on their market. We wouldn’t want a situation in which these goods subsequently entered the EU market via the UK.”
This issue of preventing goods ‘leaking’ from a possibly more liberal UK market into a more protected EU market after Brexit is closely linked to the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, where both sides have agreed that there will be no border infrastructure in future.
But, despite his concerns about trading discrepancies between the two sides, Siekierski was upbeat about the Irish border situation.
“Some transitional arrangements can be proposed and we can see how these would fare in practice. If both sides agree we can then adjust these. It is not as though a wave of products would flood Ireland, Britain and Europe. This process can be observed and monitored.”
First published in IEG Policy
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