EU parliament greenlights farm subsidy plan

·2-min read
French farmers are again set to receive the biggest share of EU subsidies (AFP/JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER)

The European Parliament gave its final green light on Tuesday to the EU's vast farm subsidy programme despite the opposition of environmentalists, who denounced its terms as "greenwashing".

The sums involved are huge. The common agricultural policy, or CAP, runs to 387 billion euros ($472 billion) over seven years -- a third of the EU's total multi-year budget -- with 270 billion euros going in direct aid to Europe's farmers.

The EU's spending bonanza will come into effect in 2023 and France remains the main beneficiary country. MEPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of the three texts that made up the total subsidy package.

The reform, which took months to conclude with EU member states, pays premiums to farmers who partake in greener activities, use more environmentally friendly techniques or help improve animal welfare.

In theory, member states will have to devote an average of 25 percent per year of direct payments to these "eco-regimes" between 2023 and 2027, with the possibility of devoting only 20 percent in the first two years.

"This is a first," said German MEP Peter Jahr, who led on one of the programme's three legislative texts.

"Our task was to have a coherent reform within the time limit and we have succeeded," he said.

Under the law, Brussels will verify that member states comply with the bloc's objectives of reducing greenhouse gases as well as reducing pesticides by half by 2030. A quarter of the land is also to be reserved for organic farming.

But climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said ahead of the vote that the plan was "disastrous to the climate and environment", while Greens MEP Benoit Biteau called it a "gift for the Eurosceptics, agribusiness and climate sceptics who have worked to ensure that this CAP serves the largest farms."

Critics argue that the vast majority of subsidies come without climate-friendly conditions or oversight and that the green aspects have been watered down since the previous multi-year package.

The proposal now goes back to EU member states for a final vote, before it officially goes into effect.

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