A few months have passed since the European elections took place in May; however, the formation of the new leadership of the EU institutions is far from complete. In September, when newly elected Members of Parliament (MEPs) and recently approved Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will return to Brussels, they will have an immense task to form and confirm the new Commission. Meanwhile, the new Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) is expected to determine the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform post-2020.
New and Old Faces in the Commission
In mid-September, the new Commission President will announce a list of 28 (or 27 if the UK leaves the EU) new potential Commissioners. Member States have been working to identify their candidates and portfolios that they would like to be responsible for in the Commission for the upcoming five years. Before assuming office, candidates will have to pass a rigorous hearing process in the Parliament.
A few names have already emerged for key positions considered critically important for food and farming policies. Brussels-based media reveals that the current Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel from Bulgaria (affiliated with EPP) is likely to be appointed as the next EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. Meanwhile, Irish Philip Hogan (EPP), currently holding this post, may be after the Trade portfolio, which will be especially important in the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU.
As of now, it is not clear yet who might take over the portfolios from Lithuanian Vytenis Andriukaitis (S&D), responsible for Health and Food Safety and Maltese Karmenu Vela (S&D), responsible for the Environment.
Though national governments usually suggest their candidate to a particular Commission portfolio, the Greens have made a quite unprecedented request to have at least 4 EU Commission jobs in return for their support for von der Leyen. It remains to be seen how many positions the Greens will obtain; so far, the political group has been left without any significant post in the race for EU top positions despite their gains in the European elections. It might be difficult for the Greens to get four portfolios in the new Commission since no EU country has a Green-led government.
Parliament to Decide the Future of the CAP
Autumn will be a challenging period for the new Parliament as well. The highly debated CAP reform will be put back on the table once again as the AGRI Committee is expected to decide what to do with the file.
Just before the European Elections, the former AGRI Committee voted against the majority of amendments proposed by the previous Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI). These amendments included proposals such as increased funding for ecological farming and cuts for intensive animal farms.
Now, the new AGRI Committee has several options: to vote to support the current CAP reform at the Committee level, in order to bring the file to a final vote in the Parliament; or to demand that the entire file be reviewed by the Commission. However, it is difficult to expect MEPs to make this drastic move as the Parliament is under pressure to finalize the CAP reform and bring it to the stage of final negotiations.
In July, Slow Food Europe along with other civil society organizations in an open letter called on the AGRI Committee to work towards a green and fair reform of the CAP, stressing that the currently proposed changes are “woefully inadequate to meet the magnitude of the environmental and social challenges” in Europe’s farming sector.
On October 22, Slow Food Europe will take part in the Good Food Good Farming demonstration in Strasbourg, where civil society organizations will demand the European Parliament to make urgently needed changes in Europe’s agricultural system.
Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe