The European Court of Auditors has presented a report on the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2021. In it, it criticises in particular the lack of environmental and climate policy incentives in the proposed agricultural aid of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
In its Statement, published on 25.10.2018, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) observes that in its opinion the climate protection targets, which are associated with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) do not appear to be realistic. Whilst at the publication of the proposal on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the Commission let it be known that it intended to provide for a greener CAP, according to the ECA the proposal does not adequately reflect this target. The proposal delegates the prioritisation of climate and more environmentally friendly targets to the Member States. Hence, it is not clear to the ECA how the Commission intends to control the adherence to these targets. According to the ECA, in general, the proposal of the Commission for the period 2021-2027 was hardly different from the current Financial Framework.
ECA criticises in particular the insufficient economic foundation based on data, which the Commission submits for CAP. These would not include enough reference points for traditional measures such as direct payments, rural development and market measures. A major point of the criticism is that even though direct payments to farmers account for the largest part of the CAP budget, no requirement exists for Member States to collect reliable and comparable statistics on available agricultural income. For example, figures available to the Commission do not include any additional earnings of farmers. Added to this is the fact that the budget is not distributed based on needs assessment, but in accordance with the preconceived Financial Framework and specific interventions by the Member States. Apart from that, the proposal would still force Member States to base direct payments on hectare and land ownership. The AK has been criticising for quite some time that the distribution of funds benefits an increasingly smaller number of farm enterprises, which farm an area, which is becoming increasingly larger.
In the opinion of the ECA, such use of funds is not appropriate to tackle climate and environmental problems. Apart from that, it was not the most efficient way to ensure a good income for farmers. In addition, they do not reflect the performance-related distribution models set by the Commission. The absence of quantifiable EU targets creates uncertainties as to how the Commission would rate Member State CAP strategies. Hence, the EU’s set targets cannot be measured. Furthermore, the ECA regards the proposed framework as a very weak incentive to increase the performance of farm enterprises. Targets might be missed by a large margin without having a major impact on EU subsidies, whilst a good performance might only generate a performance bonus.
Investment in the future
Prior to the publication of the ECA Report, the AK had already proposed to link the future allocation of agricultural subsidies to the environmental solution of environmental problems, for which the agricultural sector also bears responsibility; it also pointed to the problem of their measurability. According to the will of the Commission, the nomenclature of both agricultural funding instruments EAGF (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund) and EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) shall remain unchanged. Only the targets of EAFRD shall be slightly changed. However, the BAK supports a fairer and more effective distribution of the resources of funds and would like to see all people in rural areas benefiting from this. 50 % of the resources from the programme should be reserved for cross-sector measures in rural areas, in particular through investments and contemporary infrastructure. In doing so, it might be possible to slow down the phenomenon of the rural exodus, which can be observed in numerous areas of Europe. The BAK would like to see a quarter of the resources to be reserved for improving social services such as kindergartens and care centres, as well as the development of the digital infrastructure – keyword broadband expansion.