Flanders must break deadlock by Friday in order to unblock European agricultural aid
Flemish agriculture minister Jo Brouns is seeking agreement within the Flemish government on Friday on a concrete plan for implementing the European common agricultural policy (CAP). If the government cannot come to an agreement on Friday, the first tranche of European aid, to the tune of 300 million euros, will remain blocked.
The current deadlock resulted from an unfavourable opinion issued by the Flemish Nature and Forests Agency (ANB). According to Brouns (CD&V, Christian Democrats), time is of the essence. "Every minute this plan is not implemented means a lost minute for the further sustainability of our agriculture, and a lost minute for the further improvement of environmental quality," he replied to questions in the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday.
The European common agricultural policy (CAP) outlines the framework for Flemish agriculture from 2023 to 2027 and is linked to €1.6 billion in European subsidies, of which €550 million is direct income support. After the European Commission criticised an initial proposal, Flemish agriculture minister Jo Brouns was given the European green light for what he called "the greenest CAP ever" in December 2022.
However, almost two months later, there is still no agreement on the plan within the Flemish government, meaning the disbursement of a first tranche of €300 million is "on hold". At the root of this deadlock is an unfavourable opinion issued by the Flemish Nature and Forests Agency (ANB). According to ANB, the assessment accompanying the CAP, the study of the environmental impact of agricultural policy on protected nature, is "insufficiently qualitative".
"This standstill is not only a disaster for farmers, but also for the environment and biodiversity", said Brouns.
Meanwhile, environmental organisations Natuurpunt and Bond Beter Leefmilieu have asked the European Commission to reconsider its approval of the Flemish strategic agriculture plan. To this end, the organisations are invoking the Aarhus procedure. In a joint communication, the organisations also accused the minister of "deception" in the dossier.
"I am astonished to be accused of deception," responded Brouns, who immediately entered into talks with the organisations. "I find it very unfortunate to threaten legal proceedings because not all wishes have been fulfilled, because it possibly leads to a standstill. This standstill is not only a disaster for farmers but also for the environment and biodiversity," the agriculture minister stated.
Brouns warns of the possible consequences of not implementing the plan. "If we cannot pay direct agricultural aid this year, it also means that there are no cross-compliance conditions that farmers have to respect. For example: the agreed-upon buffer strips of three pesticide-free metres will not go into effect. I think this is not what we want".
Brouns hopes to land the dossier on Friday. "Where there is a will, there's a way. I am convinced we will get there together".
#FlandersNewsService | Flemish Agriculture minister Jo Brouns © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM