Why Vote in the European Elections? Slow Food Europe Answers on Twitter (Week 1)

Slow Food Europe has started its action for the European Elections on May 23-26. During this month, we call everyone to vote for the candidates who respect European values and care about the future of European agriculture and food.

The forthcoming European elections will set the tone for the future of Europe. Over the last few years, the unity of Europeans and the strength of our values have been put through many tests. The 2014 European Parliament elections saw historically low voter turnout, averaging at 42.61% across Europe; with only about one in four young Europeans (18-24- year-olds) voting in the elections.

The latest Eurobarometer survey has shown that over 60 % of Europeans believe neither national governments nor the EU are doing enough to protect the environment, and 67 % (up 7 % on 2014) think that decisions about protecting the environment should be made jointly within the EU.

Slow Food Europe together with Slow Food Youth Network has answered to the question “why to vote in the European Elections?”. What does our food have to do with EU policy? What impact does it have on our food system? Read the first answers published on social media on why you absolutely need to cast your vote.

We cannot just blame decision-makers: we elect them. Have your say! Together, we can shape the Europe that we want.

Agricultural policy concerns us all because it influences what lands on our plates. Food is more than just eating – food is political!

In 2019, it will be decided which type of agriculture the EU wants to support and where its 60 billion euros worth of annual EU agricultural cash will go.

Will it go to the agro-industrial giants, or will it go to support fair sustainable agriculture?

… and it has been by far the largest item in the EU budget ever since. After the Second World War, the main concern was to provide the population with sufficient food at fair prices. The objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) defined in those early days have remained mostly the same: to produce high volumes of cheap foodstuffs for the European and global markets and to stabilize agricultural incomes. However, society’s expectations and needs have changed. It is not just a question of producing enough food to eat, but also of preventing overproduction and making the system viable for the future. Since its inception, the CAP has been revised several times and has attempted to make new adjustments.

In 2021 the next CAP funding period will start. Will the opportunity to implement a fairer and more environmentally friendly CAP be seized or missed?

The first pillar supports agricultural holdings by the area under cultivation (approx. 75% of the CAP budget); the second pillar is designed for rural development, organic farming and environmental protection measures (approx. 25%). Direct payments under the first pillar, which have low ecological obligations, continue to account for the majority of subsidies. These payments favor large corporations with large cultivation areas, which mainly produce raw materials for the global market. In contrast, environmental protection measures and essential investments in rural development remain underrepresented. That must change!

It is approximately 31 cents per day and a total of almost 60 billion euros annually. That corresponds to 38% of the total EU budget. The CAP is, therefore, one of the most important EU policy areas and by far the largest item in the EU budget. You can decide how your money will be spent!

In agriculture, working conditions are often precarious, and the incomes of many agricultural workers are subject to strong fluctuations. Falling prices can threaten the livelihoods of producers. Part-time and short-term contracts are part of everyday life, and undeclared work is also widespread.

Since agricultural enterprises receive their support per hectare instead of per worker, the expansion of farms is encouraged, but not the safeguarding of jobs. The general rule is that the larger the agricultural area, the fewer people are employed per hectare. EU agricultural subsidies have so far not included any requirements on labor standards in agriculture. The addition of a social clause to the conditions is essential!

Since its creation over 50 years ago, the CAP has been reformed several times. However, it does not yet address the challenges of the 21st century. Who decides on the CAP reform? Once the European Commission develops its proposal, it should be agreed upon the European Parliament and the Council of Agricultural Ministers. The EU Member States then decide on the framework conditions of the CAP in their respective countries. EU policy thus influences what ends up on our plates.

Last year, legislative proposals were presented for the CAP after 2020. The new CAP reform is criticized for lacking greater environmental ambition and favoring big industrial farms. However, the new Parliament will have to vote on the CAP reform and give their say.

Use your vote in the EU election. We still can have a CAP that is friendly to the environment and climate!

The economic importance and monopoly of large farms continues to grow and has increased by 16% in recent years. The spread of large farms is accompanied by a loss of traditional farming methods, food products, and agro-biodiversity, as well as an increase in the environmental impact of intensive farming.

We demand targeted support from the EU for smallholder farms and subsidies that would be linked to far-reaching eco-efficiency measures!

In many parts of Europe, groundwater is heavily contaminated with nitrates. The large quantities of liquid manure produced by intensive animal husbandry can neither be absorbed by plants nor by the soil. The over-fertilization of crops also means that excess nitrogen cannot be absorbed and is released into the water.

Fertilizer in the water leads to increased growth of algae and thus to a lack of oxygen. Many species can no longer exist in this altered habitat. Others, on the other hand, thrive and proliferate.

We call on the EU to coordinate the Water Framework Directive and agricultural policy more closely, to protect our drinking water more effectively.

Our soil is one of the most critical carbon reservoirs and home to a diverse habitat. It provides nutrients and water for food production.

However, soil quality is increasingly at risk. To make matters worse, industrial agriculture contributes to the reduction of biodiversity and soil fertility through the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.

A planned EU soil framework directive should have contributed to soil protection. However, the directive was not adopted, and the EU Commission’s draft was withdrawn in 2014.

We need sustainable cultivation and healthy soil to be able to produce healthy food. That is what the politicians should work for!

On 23-26 May 2019, the European elections will take place. Go vote!

#foodisPOLITICS #votewithyourfork #thistimeimvoting #EUElections2019 #FutureofEurope

 

Read the Manifesto of Slow Food Europe, here.

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe

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