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Different policy, same frustrating story

The EU has the capability of being a truly progressive institution yet despite this, frequently bows to the interests of big corporations and free market economics. The recent proposals for reform to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are yet another good example of this happening.

In the context of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s state of the union address where she called for a European green deal, the EU are currently close to achieving a series of reforms to the CAP with the aim of making farming in Europe more environmentally friendly. The European Parliament has adopted some of the key proposed reforms which include a larger allocation of funds being made for environmental measures and biodiversity beneficial landscapes, as well as the adoption of direct payments for eco-schemes. This does indeed sound impressive on the surface, but how progressive and monumental of a change really is this? 

Looking at various reforms and changes needed for a truly green and fair Europe, it becomes clear how little is really being changed here. Firstly, the EU rejected proposals to cut subsidies to environmentally damaging factory farming, as well as measures to protect grasslands. Secondly, the reforms don’t change the controversial distribution of CAP subsidies where a large amount of money goes to Europe’s biggest farm landowners, encouraging farmers to over-expand and over-produce. On top of this, reforms the EU have agreed to are riddled with flaws, with Greenpeace EU’s agricultural policy director, Marco Contiero, criticising the eco-schemes reform for being poorly enforced on member states. 

The director of Birdlife, Ariel Brunner, hit the nail on the head in his recent interview when he said this was just the EU labelling ‘sustainability’ next to every policy. This won’t stop those who make vast amounts of money from destroying the planet.

All of this represents my frustrations with what appears to be an ongoing trend with the EU: the ability to create progressive change on a continental level, but an insistence on sticking with the interests of corporations. 

The policy could have been used to protect human and labour rights across Europe. Instead, it was used to enforce investor freedoms and market discipline on the state and labour. The single market could have been used to truly hold corporations to account, but the benefits it gives corporations and the profits they make from it far outweigh the cost of fines. This leaves international investors in no doubt as to who benefits the most from single market rules. Now the EU has the opportunity to truly reform the CAP for a green Europe, yet they refuse to cut subsidies for factory farming and get rid of the regressive distribution of funds. 

When thinking what the future of the EU may be, I think of the speech given by German MEP Martin Schirdewan on the UK’s last day in the EU Parliament. He emphasised if the EU does not change its political cause, and continues to prioritize corporate interests over its own citizens, then the UK will not be the last member state to leave. 

03/11/2020

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Ross Gower