Still no Flemish agreement on Common Agricultural Policy, EU expresses concern

The government of Flanders should have implemented its agricultural plans as approved by the European Commission from 1 January 2023, stressed a European Commission spokesman on Thursday. According to sources close to the EU's executive board, there is "serious concern" that Flanders has not yet approved those plans. The government could be held accountable if this violates the rights of its farmers.

The European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contains an outline for Flemish agriculture from 2023 to 2027. It guarantees €1.38 billion in European subsidies, supplemented by €272 million of national funding, of which €550 million is direct income support.

The European Commission gave the green light to Flemish Agriculture minister Jo Brouns' proposal in December, but the government of Flanders still has not agreed to it. The first tranche of European aid, worth €300 million, is "on hold" because of ongoing discussions between Brouns and Environment minister Zuhal Demir.

Demir refuses to approve the plan because Brouns didn't submit his study on the policy's environmental impact on protected nature to the EU. The study received a negative opinion from the Belgian Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB), which concluded that the study is of "insufficient quality". The spokesperson did stress that this study is not subject to European approval.

"Unprecedented situation"

The official warned that the Flemish government must bear the financial risk if it fails to implement the CAP. The Commission has already expressed its "grave concern" about this "unprecedented situation", which "leaves farmers in Flanders uncertain as to whether, when and under what conditions they will be able to apply for the foreseen aid and receive direct payments and other EU support".

The CAP is not the only policy that is causing division in Flanders. Demir is also trying to implement a deal to reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution. The plan, which contains a list of polluting farms that must close by 2025, received over 20,000 objections. Other majority parties are against the forced closures and claim that the list is based on outdated data.

Flemish farmers, meanwhile, are outraged by the Flemish government's lack of progress. Farmers' associations are threatening legal action if the government is unable to find common ground on these issues. On 15 February, a demonstration in front of Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon's office will take place.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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