CAP: EU is duty-bound to support its agriculture, argues Minister

European Union – Excerpts from the interview given by Mme Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to LCI

Paris, 12 February 2020

(…)

Q. – There’s a very important budget marathon starting in Brussels next week, because the budget for this new European Commission, this new Europe post-European-elections needs to be set for several years. So the first tangible consequence of Brexit is that London, which was a so-called net contributor, will no longer be paying into the pot. That’s a loss of how much, 12 billion, to the total budget per year?

THE MINISTER – Indeed, the key thing today is that following Brexit and the commitments made during the European elections and made by the Commission’s new president, we need a budget commensurate with our ambitions. Here too, it’s about consistency and realism.

Q. – If you could answer my question. How much has been lost as a result of London leaving?

THE MINISTER – I’m not going to get into a discussion with you this morning about figures…

Q. – Twelve billion? Is that right? Can you confirm?

THE MINISTER – We’re trying in fact to get those who’ve paid for Europe to pay a little bit more, we’re also trying to…

Q. – Will France pay more?

THE MINISTER – Of course we’ll pay more. But what I’ve got to say to you is that we’re not paying more merely because of Brexit. We’re going to put resources on the table to ensure there are new ambitions too, because we need to invest when it comes to European defence, because when it comes to space policy we need to invest…

Q. – There are questions about the CAP, because indeed, as you put it perfectly well, there are other priorities on top of the British leaving: immigration, better management, investment in research, innovation, stepping up defence and, of course, the environment. So will the CAP have to be cut back on?

THE MINISTER – Not at all. It’s the exact opposite.

Q. – How? Isn’t the CAP budget going to be reduced for the French?

THE MINISTER – The CAP budget, our whole defence, what President Macron and I have been doing for two years now, for two years, what we’ve been fighting for has been to say that the CAP, agriculture, isn’t an “outdated” policy just because it has been around for a long time. It’s a key sovereignty policy. A continent that imports its food isn’t a powerful continent, because that means it depends on other people. So sovereignty, yes, is about defence, but it’s also about agriculture and food. And so…

Q. – But overall, the CAP budget, we’re talking about a 5 to 20% decrease...

THE MINISTER – No, no, that isn’t what I’m working on at all.

Q. – How much is the CAP going to go down by?

THE MINISTER – We’re trying to stabilize the CAP budget so that between 2021 and 2027 we’ve got the same money as between 2014 and 2020. (…)

Q. – Can you tell us you’ll get this, from your partners?

THE MINISTER – We’re well on the way. Compared to what the European Commission had proposed, more money has already been proposed by the Finns, who were handling the negotiation. I’m going to Brussels on Monday, and President Macron and I will be in Brussels on Thursday to ensure, indeed, that we can give French farmers the same amount of money as we did between 2014 and 2020, not to do the same thing, because otherwise they’ll be in the same situation, and I think it’s clear to see that we need to invest, we need to support them much more, we need to make the ecological and environmental transition possible…

Q. – Will it be greened…

THE MINISTER – Yes, it will be greened.

Q. – Does that mean there will be more conditions attached to payments?

THE MINISTER – Either way, they’ll be there to allow the necessary investment so that our farmers…

Q. – So there will be more conditions?

THE MINISTER – There will be more conditions, it will also be more consistent with the transition farmers are being asked to make. What I can tell you is that some say the Common Agricultural Policy is a traditional policy and they’d like modern policies; I tell them it’s the complete opposite, it’s a key sovereignty policy and is more necessary than ever. As you know, China and the United States are supporting their agriculture more than ever. Well, we’re duty-bound to do the same thing. There are other policies on which…

Q. – Are you telling us this morning that the CAP won’t be cut in the next few years?

THE MINISTER – That’s what I’m telling you; our prime objective is to be able to ensure that farmers have the resources to invest, they have revenue and can fully commit to the transition, with the resources to make it succeed, and I’m also telling you that we can’t, at a time when we want to create a European power, think of food sovereignty, defence sovereignty and technological sovereignty as different things. This allows us to be autonomous and independent.

Q. – Another question. Now that London has left, Europhiles, all the Europeans have been saying to themselves: OK, this is a tremendous opportunity to go about Europe in a different way so that it’s closer to people, because we’ve seen that when this hasn’t been the case it can lead to Brexit. Next week, at this budget marathon, aren’t we basically going to see everything carrying on as before, with national self-interest and petty-mindedness, with nothing changing?

THE MINISTER – What I see is that a great deal of work is being done to avoid that. I think that, for the Europeans, there comes a point when you’ve got to stop making speeches and be able to get results. I think that in 2024, at the next European elections, if we return with promises and don’t have a track record, if the Europeans haven’t seen how Europe has really protected them, then we’ll have a problem. So everything I and President Macron are fighting for is to say that after two years of providing Europe with ideas, after a year of creating a new team for Europe, we’ve now got to get results.

And 2022 is an important year for French people; it’s an important year for France in Europe too. For six months, France will preside over the European Union’s work. Between now and then, we must be able to provide resources commensurate with our ambitions, provide tools to tackle what we’re trying to do, in the migration, food – of course –, environment, industrial and digital spheres. Thierry Breton is telling us that, up against China and the United States, we can’t be the only ones accepting everything happening around us without ever defining how we want things to happen for us. (…)./.

Published on 14/02/2020

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