EU agriculture ministers argue for ambition: European Commission must take stronger action against farmer suffering | News

To deal with the ongoing farmers’ protest in Europe, the 27 EU agriculture ministers met on Monday morning. While hundreds of tractors occupied the European district in Brussels, they sought measures to ease the administrative pressure on farmers. “The European Commission must take more ambitious steps,” responds Federal Minister of Agriculture David Clarinval (MR).

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“There was a positive response among Member States to the first measures proposed by the European Commission,” Clarinval said during the press conference after the European consultations. Belgium currently temporarily chairs the EU ministerial councils.

For example, the Commission wants less agricultural area to be converted into pasture. That could be possible from March. Inspections by national authorities on agricultural holdings could be halved, according to the proposal from the EU executive.

It is also clarified when farmers will not be sanctioned because they cannot comply with the rules of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to force majeure. The CAP is, among other things, a pot of money that the EU distributes to farmers through the Member States in exchange for better protection of the environment and climate.

Clarinval also noted that free trade agreements being negotiated by the European Commission with other countries should be carefully examined. Member States also ask the Commission to ensure smoother exports of Ukrainian grain to non-European countries. To help Ukrainian farmers, they can sell their goods in the EU, but this means that European farmers have to sell their grain at a lower price.

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Brouns: “The message came from all member states”

“It was unanimous in the council: we must provide an answer to the concerns that farmers have been expressing today, but have actually been expressing for weeks,” Flemish Agriculture Minister Jo Brouns (CD&V) told our editors. He sat at the table during the meeting with his European colleagues. “We have done that at the Flemish level, but now the European level also has to shift.”

Free trade with Mercosur countries from South America

Through spokesperson Bram Bombeek, Brouns also refers to negotiations on the free trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the so-called Mercosur countries. A political agreement was reached on this in 2019, but further negotiations have been dragging on for years.

“No products should come in here that we would not produce here ourselves,” says Brouns. “No steaks in Flanders that do not meet our own sustainability conditions.”

Groen, Flemish in the opposition and federally in the majority, called on Monday to stop negotiating the agreement. “They are still allowed to use pesticides in South America that are banned in Europe because they make people sick. It is absurd that these fruit and vegetables would end up in our supermarket,” co-chairman Jeremie Vaneeckhout gives as an example.

“Neoliberalism is passé composé.”

Tijs Boelens, Farmers Forum

The Mercosur agreement is also a stumbling block for farmers’ organizations protesting today. The United Young Farmers feel that they will have to serve as a currency for German industry’s exports and that the rules that apply to them in Europe will be thrown overboard in favor of cheaper food products from South America.

Tijs Boelens from the Boerenforum said the same at VTM NIEUWS. “For us, the European Quarter has been the focus today because we wanted to make it clear to European leaders that their economic policies are mispolicies that do not create food security,” he further said. “Neoliberalism is passé composé.”

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