First of all, I would like to address you a warm welcome to the Meeting on Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy, hosted by the Parliament of Romania under the Parliamentary Dimension of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The timeframe of our Presidency at the EU Council is defined by a very complex European and international context. And, I should underline, the time to achieve substantial progress on the legislative dossiers carried over to our presidency is, most of all, defined by its brevity - due to the shorter schedule of the European Parliament, assembled only until the May elections.
The sake and the future of two important and successful EU policies draw our attention in particular, and it is in this context that I have the distinguished pleasure and honor to address to you a word of welcome and, with your permission, several considerations on the subject matter.
The Common Agricultural Policy and the Cohesion Policy address the welfare of citizens and are designed to counter the formation of cleavages and the fragmentation effect between regions across the EU. However, following the new proposals of the European Commission, we see that the budget allotted for the traditional structural policies designed to bring added value to our citizens is put under pressure.
On the one hand, the budget allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy in the next Multiannual Financial Framework is significantly lower than the current one and its share from the total EU budget drops to around 28.5%, compared to 37% in the current framework. On the other hand, the "new delivery model" intended as a reform by the European Commission for the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 appears to be decisively connected with the new Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.
Taking into consideration the novelty factor and the budgetary reduction envisaged, we deem it as useful and timely to have a debate on the impact of these measures on the European food security and sovereignty as well as on the environmental and territorial balance.
On the matter of cohesion, a policy with positive effects treasured by all of the member states - from the Mediterranean to the Eastern boundaries of the Union but not only - the Commission also proposed a reform in the next EU long term budget that ultimately led to the reduction of funds. We are currently pondering on the pros and cons of the changes and their long-term value for the unitary development of the Union.
We should recall, in this context, that the European Parliament, in its resolution of 14 November 2018 on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, declared its opposition to any reduction in the level of long-standing EU policies enshrined in the Treaties, such as Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies. The resolution noted that the European Parliament is particularly opposed to any radical cuts that will have an adverse impact on the very nature and objectives of these policies, such as the cuts proposed for the Cohesion Fund or for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Likewise, the European Committee of the Regions rejected the 28% proposed reduction for the rural development budget, as was considered contrary to the EUߴs territorial cohesion objective and opposed any reduction of the EU funding for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy. It also voiced its concern, in its opinion of 5 December 2018, that the Commissionߴs proposal for a Multiannual Financial Framework foresees a considerable 46% reduction in the Cohesion Fund budget and a 12% reduction in the budget for European territorial cooperation, even though it is recognized as one of the policies with the most European added value.
While not being exhaustive on this occasion, I should not however conclude the arguments without also mentioning that the European Economic and Social Committee, in its opinion of 17 October 2018, considered that maintaining an appropriate financial envelope for the Common Agricultural Policy is a precondition to enforce sustainability of the EU farming, to preserve incomes and jobs, to ensure production of environmental public goods and to thus contribute to the vitality of rural environment and to the stability of the economy as a whole.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the motto of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council cohesion is central. It reads: "Cohesion, a common European value" and while meaning that unity and solidarity are values we share, it also has the meaning that we intend, as rotating presidency, to emphasize the importance of returning to the key objectives of the Community project. Therefore, cohesion may be deemed to represent an essential element for the European Union’s coherence and capacity to achieve its objectives, as stated in art. 3 of the Treaty on European Union, stipulating that one of the most important common objectives is to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion among Member States.
We therefore believe that more and inclusive consultation should be facilitated in order to properly estimate and assess the impact on the existing disparities that the European Commissionߴs proposal to reduce the cohesion policyߴs budget by 10% in real terms compared to the current Multiannual Financial Framework would have on the regions and communities. It is up to the Member States in consultation with the executive arm or the Union and the European Parliament to find solutions to keep this budget at the levels for 2020, considering that the Cohesion Policy is one of the EUߴs most concrete policies, with a direct impact on the everyday life of citizens.
We should also recall that European leaders endorsed at the European Council in December last year the goal of reaching a political agreement by the autumn of 2019 as an essential condition in order to finalize negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy and to ensure smooth transition to the next financing period.
At the same time, as the multifaceted process of executing the sovereign decision of the United Kingdom to renounce its status of EU Member State draws to an unescapable conclusion, we should focus with a great deal of attention on taking all necessary precautions to prevent that Brexit repercussions would bear on the farmers across the EU. The thoughts on this matter as summarized on one occasion by Herbert Dorfmann, European Parliament’s rapporteur on the future of food and farming, ring a warning note, and I quote: "I really ask myself if it’s not the farmers paying for Brexit. If there is less money in the budget because of new programmes of the European Union and because of Brexit this means again that farmers need to pay the Brexit bill and pay to finance new programmes in the European Union. The question is not if parliament is ready for cuts," he said. "It’s if the farmers are ready for cuts."
These questions create a ripple that we should not disregard. On the contrary, we are called to take into consideration all parts of the equation and propose sustainable solutions. In this respect, it would be of significance to review during this conference what should be the most suitable answers that will help us further benefit of the added value of the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy.
I should conclude on this note and wish you a successful conference with fruitful debates as well as a pleasant stay in Bucharest.