MEPs voted on new rules governing the Common Agricultural Policy which accounts for roughly a third of the EU’s budget. Reforms are aimed at making the policy more sustainable were weakened by a series of amendments by the main political groups in the parliament.
European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski argued that the policy needed to provide economic, environmental and social benefits for Europe’s farmers and citizens. He regretted that MEPs were less ambitious than the Commission in aligning the policy with the green deal and also making it fairer.
Viola von Cramon MEP (Green, DE) was critical of the agreements reached by the three main groups in the parliament - the European People’s Party, Social Democrats and Renew - for failing to grasp the opportunity to make reforms that would lead to a greener policy that would support biodiversity.
Von Cramon also regrets that weak governance will result in the misuse of funds. A large proportion of CAP is spent on direct payments allocated on the basis of hectarage or the volume of livestock as the only conditions for receiving EU funds. She says that this has resulted in bad and sometimes criminal practices of land grabbing, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Another loophole she points to in CAP payments is the fact that subsidies are distributed ‘per farm’ where the final beneficiary of these subsidies may be one person - and not necessarily the person who is working the farm. For this reason, Von Cramon is convinced that the CAP payments and controls should be based on the ‘final beneficiary’ and that there should be a firm limit (capping) to the maximum amount of annual subsidies a single final beneficiary could receive.
Overall, she argues that there is a need for tighter controls on spending, under both pillars (direct payment and rural development).
Von Cramon says that by continuing to support crops grown per hectare the EU’s flagship agricultural policy is killing biodiversity and is distancing the EU from its green goals and commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement. Van Cramon is one among many voices saying that it is high time that the EU should break with the old practices of strong support to the big multinational agri-producers and reintroduce small and medium organic farmers and allow the soil and nature to regain some of its lost strength.
Today (30 November) ambassadors will gather in Brussels to prepare for next week’s Foreign Affairs Council and European Council of heads of government. Top of the list will be the future of EU/US relations.
The discussions will focus on five building blocks: Fighting the COVID-19; enhancing economic recovery; combatting climate change; upholding multilateralism; and, promoting peace and security.
A strategy paper places the emphasis on the cooperation of open democratic societies and market economies, as a way of addressing the strategic challenge presented by China's growing international assertiveness.
The European Council president Charles Michel will be consulting with leaders over the next week and will also coordinate with NATO to plan a summit in the first half of 2021.
Italy reported 686 COVID-19-related deaths on Saturday (28 November), against 827 the day before, and 26,323 new infections, down from 28,352 on Friday (27 November), the health ministry said,writes Elvira Pollina.
There were 225,940 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 222,803.
Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 54,363 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has also registered 1.564 million cases.
While Italy’s daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.
The health ministry said on Friday it would ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions as of 29 November, including in the country’s richest and most populous region, Lombardy.
Germany’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (28 November), writes Caroline Copley.
Altmaier told Die Welt it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.
“We have three to four long winter months ahead of us,” he was quoted as saying. “It is possible that the restrictions will remain in place in the first months of 2021.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least 20 December.
Germany imposed a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but allowed schools and shops to stay open. The measures have stopped the exponential growth of cases but infections have stabilised at a high level.
There were 21,695 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, bringing total cases since the pandemic began to 1,028,089.