The Devil is in the Detail: Threat of Delays to CAP Implementation

7 April 2014

Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image from Flickr by treehouse1977. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Image from Flickr by treehouse1977. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

In December 2013 after a long and sometimes difficult negotiation process the four main regulations governing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the next seven years had been formally adopted. Implementation of the new CAP had originally been planned for 2014 but has been delayed a year because of the time it took to reach an agreement and the need for Governments to have sufficient time to get payment systems in place.

Whilst in many Member States and Regions Governments have already begun consulting on outline proposals for implementing the next CAP, these consultations were caveated. The text of the four main regulations agreed gave a good picture of the requirements that would need to be implemented under the next CAP but a lot of the detail on some of the more complex elements was left for what is known as Delegated Acts.

In a similar manner to the subordinate legislation system operating in the Assembly, where some of the implementing details are left out of the texts of primary legislation, a number of the more technical details of CAP were left in effect to the EU’s subordinate legislation system. Part of this system is the Delegated Acts procedure.

The EU Commission in consultation with experts from Member States work-up detailed Acts which provide more technical detail on how things will operate in practice. For example in relation to the current CAP reform the details of how the greening payments and active farmer requirements will operate.

Once the Commission publishes these Delegated Acts they enter into force unless Member States or the European Parliament raise objections to them. Effectively both institutions have a veto power over these Acts.

Delegated Acts for the CAP were issued by the European Commission on 11 March 2014. It was hoped that these Acts would have been issued sooner but they were subject to intense negotiation within different Directorates of the Commission with both the Environment Directorate and Climate Director calling for higher environmental standards to be introduced.

Member States and Regional Governments with responsibility for implementing the CAP have stated that it is essential that these Delegated Acts are adopted as soon as possible to enable them to get payments systems in place. In addition, the elections to the European Parliament in May mean that failure to adopt these acts before the end of this Parliamentary session could lead to further delays.

However, MEPs in the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament have signalled that they are unwilling to support the Acts as drafted because of objections over the details of Ecological Focus Areas. 10 motions rejecting the Acts have been reported to have been laid by members of this Committee. AGRAFACTS reported on 3 April 2014 that the European Commission is preparing to offer concessions through a further Delegated Act but this has been vehemently opposed by Environment organisations. Ariel Brunner Head of EU Policy for Birdlife International has stated that the greening elements of the CAP are becoming a ‘farce’ and has suggested that changes could be being made by some MEPs pre-election in order to secure support from farming organisations.

One thing is sure, if the European Parliament rejects the texts of the Delegated Acts the stakes could be as high as when agreement on the main regulations was hanging in the balance. The Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament will meet today to consider their next steps.