Lasīšanas ilgums: 2 minūtes
The European Commission’s CAP proposals would distort competition and perpetuate an historical injustice.

The EU’s institutions have made many good statements and resolutions in the past year on how the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be made more modern, fairer, and greener, and how support to farmers should be based on objective criteria, rather than on historical reference points.

Unfortunately, the European Commission’s proposal for the CAP after 2013, presented on 12 October, is not based on any of these principles. The proposal for a re-allocation of direct payments is only a slight adjustment of historical inequalities. If the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament approve the Commission’s proposal, 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain the farmers of the Baltic states will still receive direct payments only slightly more than 50% of the EU’s average level of support. This is not fair, and it contradicts the basic European principles of solidarity and a single market.

In order to join in 2004, the post-communist states of central and eastern Europe had to accept very low direct payments for their farmers and a transition period lasting until 2013. Direct payments for the Baltic states were calculated on the basis of production levels in farms that had been collectivised by force; the state of their agricultural sectors was a direct result of Europe being partitioned by the Iron Curtain.

We cannot accept that the EU has been unable to remedy this historical injustice for 20 years – and now, if it accepts the Commission’s proposals, it will perpetuate the injustice until at least 2020. By then, a whole generation of Baltic farmers will have worked under unequal conditions of competition.

The Commission proposes that Baltic farmers should continue to compete with well-subsidised producers in a ‘single market’ framework. Currently, the direct payments that Latvian farmers receive are five times smaller per hectare than the amount received by Dutch farmers and three times less than the European average. Only after another seven years of ‘transition’ would support to Latvian farmers meet 50% of the EU average.

These differences are absurd. The goal of such payments is to help farmers keep their land in good agricultural and environmental condition. The costs of doing so differ across the EU, but not that drastically – it certainly does not cost five times more to maintain one hectare in the Netherlands than in Latvia.

It is understandable that there are concerns about disruptive changes for farmers elsewhere in Europe. Those concerns could, though, be addressed within a reasonable transitional period.

We believe that a reasonable differentiation between member states would be for each farmer to receive at least 80%, but not more than 120%, of the average payment per hectare in Europe.

After the Iron Curtain fell, Europe united politically to overcome the effects of its historical partition. Reform of the CAP offers an opportunity for us to demonstrate this commitment again.

Sandra Kalniete, a centre-right Latvian MEP, was foreign minister of Latvia in 2002-04. As Latvia’s first European commissioner (May-November 2004), she worked alongside Franz Fischler, the the then commissioner for agriculture.

Viedoklis publicēts izdevniecības The Economist grupas laikrakstā European Voice, 03.11.2011.