Three CAP reform questions to Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT* General Secretary
by Mehmet Koksal, Head of Communication and Publications ETUI
- A new critical report by the European Court of Auditors regrets that the EU agricultural spending has not made farming more climate-friendly. What is your green assessment of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ?
The outcome of that report is not a surprise for us. Unfortunately, most measures supported by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have a low climate-mitigation potential, and the CAP does not incentivise the use of effective climate-friendly practices. With the new CAP reform, whose political deal between co-legislators has been struck on 25 June 2021, there are new initiatives that aim at making the CAP more environmentally sustainable such as the eco-schemes. However, the budget allocated for such measures fall short in responding to the crying and urgent need to respond to the climate crisis, making our agriculture system more sustainable. Moreover, too much flexibility will be left to Member States.
Finally, it is regrettable that the new CAP agreement doesn’t include legally binding environmental targets in line with the objectives set out in the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. The only references to the agriculture-related Green Deal targets in the CAP are vague and, most importantly, non-binding (only present in the recitals). This means EU countries are free to ignore them. Unfortunately, this result is the consequence of the strong opposition of the Council. So far most of those ambitious targets are only set in a non-binding communication. It will be crucial to convert them into measurable objectives through the upcoming EU initiatives announced in the framework of the Farm to Fork strategy. EFFAT would have liked to see a more ambitious CAP with binding climate objectives. That would have helped in achieving a more sustainable agro-food system in the interest of the planet, future generations and agricultural workers. EFFAT is fully aware that the fight against climate change is also a fight for workers’ rights.
- Is your call for a just and fairer agriculture in Europe in line with a fairer system across generations? Young climate activists like Greta Thurnberg have called the EU authorities to scrap the CAP. What would you respond?
The Common Agricultural Policy represents an important part of the EU budget and it is very important for Europe’s food security and rural development. EFFAT believes Europe needs a strong and sustainable agriculture and that is why the EU should give strong support to farmers across Europe. Of course, not at all conditions. The CAP for example has never considered the challenging situation of agricultural workers in Europe. That’s why we campaigned intensively with our affiliates to achieve social conditionality of CAP payments. Although important aspects still have to be defined at national level, we succeeded. And this is an important trade union victory that will help in making the CAP more socially just. Still, the system must be improved. The CAP must be used to help farmers reduce their environmental impact and guarantee them a decent wage. Yet 80% of CAP funds are allocated to the richest 20% of farmers who continue to engage in intensive farming. In the future, we need a different CAP that respects and delivers more for small farmers, workers, and the environment.
- How are the ambitions environmental objectives of the European Green Deal perceived by EFFAT members ?
EFFAT sectors have a substantial impact on the environment; yet our members are also greatly affected by climate change with thousands of jobs at stake. Addressing the climate crisis is therefore both trade union priority and responsibility.
We fully supports the ambitious environmental objectives of the EU Green Deal and the Fark to Fork Strategy. However, delivering on those objectives is bound to be disruptive for the EFFAT sectors, leading to potential job losses as well as new business models and skills requirements. It can also be an opportunity for quality job creation if the process to reach those objectives is managed with a clear and inclusive governance that fully involves trade unions.
For many of our affiliates, the transition to more digital and green food and farming systems is perceived as a threat rather than as an opportunity. This is because they strive to protect and defend the interests of workers employed in very precarious sectors of the economy where the introduction of new technologies or new production patterns often mean forced restructurings and dismissals without proper safety nets, instead of new opportunities.
EFFAT will promote the implementation of a European Green Deal, that respects workers interests, and ensures a just transition. This transition will profoundly reshape the labour market, creating risks and opportunities for workers.
*EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Trade Unions