(Brussels, 23rd November) This afternoon talks collapsed at the EU Budget Summit when the EU leaders had decided that there was no ground for compromise. They had gathered in Brussels to decide on the next EU budget for the 2014-2020 period.
Future negotiations will require a new approach making the “better spending” agenda, which focuses on the quality of expenditure, much more prominent. Without a commitment to improve how the EU spends its money there is a risk that one of two possible disastrous scenarios becomes reality.
In the first unpalatable situation EU leaders will try to appease the British Prime Minister’s request for greater spending reductions and will impose an indiscriminate flat cut across all funds regardless of the quality and need for spending, either in environmental, social or economic terms.
“The second nightmare scenario is that spending is frozen at 2013 levels and the authorities would have insufficient time to implement the necessary programing decisions for 2014. This would mean that the EU would be left with an unreformed Common Agricultural Policy Direct Payments system and a Cohesion Policy which funds environmentally destructive projects. Essential funds like Development Policy, the LIFE environmental fund and the Rural Development Fund will go under-resourced.
Tony Long, Director European Policy Office WWF on the negotiations process
“This failure comes as no surprise. We have repeatedly warned EU leaders both in Brussels and in national capitals that only focusing on the big figures is a recipe for disaster. They really have to look at the better spending or the non-financial benefits of the MFF so that the budget can deliver Europe 2020 objectives. Meaningful greening of the CAP, ensuring that 25% of the next MFF will support climate action, phasing out harmful subsidies are all elements of this approach and these must all become part of the final deal. Member States all agree on the core principle and it will therefore help in the search for a compromise”.
Isabelle Autissier President WWF France on Agriculture
“Discussions on CAP have been undertaken without focusing on the bigger picture. Some Governments, led by France, have protected the Direct Payments system, under pressures from the farming interests, and looked to sacrifice the Rural Development Fund, despite the fact that it is the sole effective and targeted means of supporting environmental, social and economic priorities in the countryside. Visionary European leaders who have the public interest at heart must first cut the untargeted and harmful subsidies, which form the bulk of the CAP.
“During the next round of negotiations leaders need ensure that farmers only receive Direct Payments if they respect greening measures that work. So far what we have seen on the negotiating table is weak. Continuing the present regime of printing blank cheques for harmful farming practices is unacceptable in this time of austerity.
“All that protecting the Direct Payments System at the expense of Rural Development will do is delegitimise Common Agricultural Policy in the eyes of European taxpayers and be the first nail in the coffin of the CAP in 2020: this is far from being farmers interests."
Eberhard Brandes, CEO, WWF Germany- On LIFE
“This setback in negotiations should be put to good use by Member States allowing them to reconsider some of the mistakes they were suggesting. Germany initially asked for an increase of the tiny but successful LIFE programme for the environment. This fund has proved itself for some 20 years and requires support. But the obsession of rich Member States to cut the MFF without really focusing on the quality of spending has put it at high risk. One percent of the MFF should be considered a minimum for the program to reach its potential.”
David Nussbaum, CEO, WWF UK – On Development
“Without agreement on the future EU MFF there may be further reductions in the international development budget – though budgets are tight, and being squeezed, EU Member States must deliver on their international commitments. Otherwise, we risk a decline in European influence in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss in the developing world, which would also undermine progress towards poverty reduction. WWF is pressing for the MFF to provide more direct encouragement for building a low-carbon economy and protecting our environment and biodiversity which are critical for establishing a sustainable future in Europe and globally. ”