The European Elections: Will the New Parliament Safeguard the Interests of Citizens, Farmers, and the Environment?

Millions of people across the European Union are set to cast their vote over the coming days in the European elections, which started on Thursday and will run until Sunday. The elections will conclude an electoral campaign, during which many important EU’s policies have been rarely touched upon, thereby overlooking the far-reaching effect they will have on Europe over the next five-year period.

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Many of the strategic choices we would have liked to see up for discussion regard the environment, agriculture, and food policies. These closely interconnected issues should be a priority for any government. The decisions that will be taken on them in Europe will affect us all and have a huge influence on our daily lives. Suffice it to think of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), authorizations for the cultivation of GMOs and the use of chemicals (such as glyphosate), or of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which accounted for 38% of the EU budget in 2016 and affects not only farmers but all of us consumers and citizens.

The aim of the CAP is to support agriculture through pricing and funding policies that protect the economic and social interests of farmers. It is fundamental to update the scope of these interests to include environmental protection, economic, social and local cohesion, sustainable development and the protection of human health, all goals already set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

It will be the new Parliament’s duty to give the all-clear to the CAP for the period 2021-2027. The process has already been set into motion and the first steps taken are by no means encouraging. The ‘so much a kilo, so much a hundred grams’ principle appears to be kicking in again. This is the principle whereby, in the past, 80% of subsidies were earmarked for 20% of European farms, namely large business enterprises owning 100 and more hectares of land.

Europe needs to move from the CAP to a Common Food Policy embracing the system in toto and capable of winning the environmental, social and economic challenges ahead. The food and the resources required to produce it (soil, water, seeds and so on) need to be delivered to producers who have the rights of people and the environment at heart. To do this, it is simply necessary to respect a ‘public money for public goods’ logic, allocating common resources to common objectives and goods.

Slow Food Europe has launched its manifesto to put forward what ought to be the fundamentals of future European agricultural and food policies.

The huge gamble ahead will affect the future of the planet and the generations to come, which is why we have to demand a CAP with broader horizons that promotes virtuous agro-ecological systems as opposed to incentivizing the use of chemicals and intensive soil exploitation; that recognizes food sovereignty; that provides tangible aid to disadvantaged categories, especially those who live in marginal areas and young people; that supports small-scale producers and local products; that fosters participatory processes in order to ensure democratic procedures in food policy decision-making.

The moment has come for Europe to show its desire to defend the general interests of citizens, farmers and the environment.

The future holds many challenges for us, and we can only win them through close dialogue and constructive collaboration at European level.

The global world does not envisage isolation.

Valter Musso, Slow Food Italy

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