France says proposed cut to EU farm subsidies is 'unthinkable'
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed to reduce farm subsidies and leave more latitude to member states under the bloc’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), drawing swift condemnation from France, which called the move “unthinkable”.
The CAP proposal comes as part of a bigger, new, multi-year EU budget set to trigger battles among member states over how to fill the funding gap left by Britain’s exit next year.
In an effort to cut costs and promote other policies, farmers will see aid shrink in the 2021-2027 period to 365 billion euros ($438 billion), down 5 percent from the current CAP, the Commission said.
This would represent a share of less than 30 percent of the total budget of 1.28 trillion euros in inflation-adjusted prices, down from more than 45 percent 20 years earlier.
“The overall cut in the CAP budget is 5 percent and I regard this as a fair outcome to farmers, particularly given the challenging backdrop of a 12 billion euros Brexit,” European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan told reporters.
But France, by far the largest beneficiary of the CAP, said the proposals were unacceptable and stressed they were only a starting point for negotiations.
“For Stephane Travert, the Agriculture and Food Minister, such a drastic, massive and blind cut is simply unthinkable,” the ministry said in a statement.
“It poses an unprecedented risk to farms’ viability by seriously impacting farmers’ incomes, for whom direct aid is an essential safety net. France cannot accept any decline in direct income for farmers.”