CAP post-2020: Agri ministers adopt ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ while Court of Auditors calls for neo-realism


© Mathias Schäf

Today’s Agri Council Conclusions on the post-2020 CAP turn a blind eye to scientific evidence on the environmental crisis on Europe’s farmland – and fly in the face of the recommendations of the European Court of Auditors, also published today.

BirdLife Europe’s Senior Head of EU Policy, Ariel Brunner, had previously described a leaked draft of today’s conclusions as a ‘Surrealist Manifesto’, citing the lack of scientific basis for the ministers’ plans, their denial over the environmental crisis on Europe’s farmlands, and utterly false claims that the CAP is already delivering on the environment and climat.The final document has proven to be no improvement.

The surrealist scenescape, now formally adopted by the Agri Council, is a jarring litany of the illogical. A recent evaluation of the CAP’s socio-economic and environmental performance called out massive distortions in current spending: 80% of direct payments go to the richest 20% of beneficiaries, while the most generous environmental payments go to the least effective environmental measures. Yet the so-called ‘2 Pillars’ of the CAP remain standing. New flexibility on ‘greening’ is to be given to Member States who have already shown they would use this to empty the concept of any meaning, as amply documented by the Court of Auditors in their December report, ‘Greening: a more complex income support scheme, not yet environmentally effective.

In a worrying throwback to the 1980s, the Council is also courting danger by opening the door to a return to production subsidies which Member States are keen to shower on pet sectors. The inevitable ‘race to the bottom’ will further drive agricultural intensification – with terrible knock-on effects for both the environment and farmers. And the de-facto renationalization of the CAP compromises not only the entire subsidy system, but the Common Market itself.

Conversely, the body responsible for checking if the EU budget has been soundly implemented – the European Court of Auditors – paints a more ‘neo-realist’ picture of the CAP’s future.The ECA argues that the CAP must make specific and scientifically-driven contributions to the EU’s environmental objectives; and that any flexibility given to Member States in its implementation cannot undermine this principle. 

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy, BirdLife Europe:All over Europe, farmers are going out of business and farmland biodiversity is in freefall. The Agri Council conclusions – blind to these realities – are nothing but a Daliesque pastiche with a scandalous price tag of 40% of the EU budget. Heads of State and Government now need to take a long, hard look at the facts set out by the Court of Auditors and rebuild legitimacy over EU spending by ring-fencing at least €15bn for biodiversity and ensure that every Euro spent delivers real value against clear EU objectives.”