Press Releases

22 November 2018

CAP Post 2020: Scientific research and digital transformation essential for agricultural development

Zagreb, 22 November 2018 – At the end of the first day of the Interparliamentary Conference on “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming” the participants discussed issues related to agricultural research and food safety and quality.

Chiara Dellapasqua, Policy Officer in the European Commission DG for Agriculture and Rural Development, presented the interactive innovation model which is applied in Operational Groups and helps forming partnerships and networking of farmers, scientists, agricultural businesses, advisory bodies and NGOs. At this moment there are 700 active Operational Groups and for the post 2020 period it is planned that this number will increase to approximately 3200. Under EU’s largest research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 there are more than 100 ongoing projects dealing with current issues such as climate and climate change, water management, food quality, supply chains, marketing and consumption, agricultural production systems, agricultural practices, farming equipment and machinery, plant production, control of diseases and infections. – The implementation of information technologies in agriculture presents a major challenge, but knowledge and innovation are the main objectives pursued by all Member States. We therefore need specific measures for knowledge transfer, consultancy and training in agriculture to which significant resources have been devoted, Dellapasqua said. For the post 2020 period the European Commission has focused on agriculture that is based on knowledge, innovation and digitization. Every CAP strategic plan will include a chapter that will address modes of fostering knowledge sharing and innovation and developing digital technologies in agriculture. Cooperation, guidance and training programmes are planned for rural development. Under the Horizon programme 10 billion Euro will be made available for food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

Doina Silistru, Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Food Industry and Rural Development of the Romanian Senate, said that scientific research was essential to the existence of all nations. – Those not supporting technological development run the risk of losing their independence. Global warming and food crisis are the main problems for global security – the major challenge of the 21st century, said Silistru adding that scientific research in agriculture is expected to help addressing contemporary challenges, while future EU facilities for research funding should provide concrete financial packages for agriculture, especially for disadvantaged Member States. – Scientific research should be aimed at designing new plant varieties that will be adapted to special conditions in individual Member States, at finding solutions to improve soil quality in order to upgrade agricultural production and competitiveness and in this way contribute to tapping each Member State’s potential, Silistru added. She proposed the establishment of a register of good pilot projects for the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience.

The participants in the debate also discussed the issue of food waste and the need for better cooperation in the bioeconomy sector, which requires training of experts and scientists to develop more innovative systems and technologies. – Digital transformation is a one-way street we all have to follow in order to create the future of agricultural development post 2020, said Charoula Kafantari, Chair of the Greek Parliament’s Standing Committee on Production and Trade. She added that the issue of food safety implied adopting environmentally friendly practices, streamlining water resources management, reducing the use of pesticides and protecting family farms.

Director of the Croatian Food Agency Darja Sokolić pointed out that along with numerous advantages, global market also brought great challenges. She noted that incidents in the neighbourhood should not be ignored and added that scientific research was a key factor in solving this kind of problems. – In addition, there is a possibility that the results of such scientific research could be reused, starting with the adoption of adequate regulations or temporary measures at the national level, Sokolić said. She also pointed to some new trends such as the comeback of homemade and traditional food production, the production of new foods entailing new risks to human health, such as various allergens, the consumption of insects and food containing activated charcoal, which all could be objects of scientific research.

Sanja Šeparović from the Croatian Veterinary Chamber spoke of a comprehensive approach to animal protection and safety of food of animal origin. – Every consumer has legitimate expectations regarding the safety of the food placed on the shop shelves, and this implies ensuring traceability of cattle breeding and constant availability of relevant data, starting from the registration of livestock farms, through recording the origin, movement, vaccination and treatment of animals all the way to the slaughterhouse, emphasized Šeparović, adding that such databases should be regularly updated. “If we know our legislative tasks and security programmes, then official controls are important so that the minimum competence standards are known as well. There are veterinary organizations that accumulate tremendous knowledge, and we need to keep them in the process of controlling food safety, Sanja Šeparović concluded at the end of the first day of the Interparliamentary Conference on agriculture and rural development in Zagreb.

The Role of Regional and Local Governments in the Implementation of Rural Development Policies

Zagreb, 22 November 2018 – The third session of the Interparliamentary Conference “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming” discussed the role of local and regional governments in the implementation of rural development policies.

In her introductory presentation Chiara Dellapasqua from the European Commission presented the key elements from the Commission’s proposal on the role of regional and local self-government. She pointed out that until now the EU had a common rural development policy in which Member States had to respect certain rules, but experience showed that the model of conditioning could be improved. “The new model of common policy will be based on results. The Commission’s proposal contains a rebalancing of obligations and responsibilities between Member States and local authorities”, Dellapasqua said. The European Union, she stressed, will set nine goals, and the Member States will be responsible for identifying needs in particular rural areas and will need to find solutions to these needs by means of their own interventions. Once a year it will be verified whether a member state is on the road to achieving the goals, and the results of rural development policy will be presented to the European Commission. “The basic principle of this reform is simplification, the administration will be within a simpler framework, more technology and consulting will be used,” Dellapasqua said.

Alexandru Stănescu, Chair of the Committee for Agriculture, Forestry, Food Industry and Specific Services of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, emphasized in his presentation the need to involve local authorities and residents of rural areas in the achievement of sustainable development. Talking about the priorities of rural development, he mentioned generational renewal, economic stabilization of the rural population and orientation towards a lifestyle acceptable to younger generations, the creation of the so called smart villages, the stimulation of vitality of rural areas, and the increase of efficiency. “The village should not to be financed solely from EU funds, but we have to think about public-private partnerships and investments from state programs and funds, according to the new CAP, Stănescu said. The problem is that the proposed CAP budget is only 27% of the EU total budget, while in 1985 the CAP accounted for 75% of the EU budget, which undoubtedly contributes to the reduction of the workforce in rural areas.

The President of the Association “Best of Međimurje” Valentina Hažić presented the work of the Association and of her family farm, where she first started to introduce changes – shifting from traditional agricultural production to the processing industry. Other farms in this smallest Croatian region followed suit. The Association’s objective is to help small producers establish themselves on the market by building unity, despite the fact that they are competitors. “We have decided that nice labels and design will not sell our products, but customer’s confidence will. Consumers want to know what they eat, and we give them accurate and transparent information”, Hažić pointed out. As an example of mutual cooperation, she mentioned the cooperation between local farmers and the Sveti Martin Wellness Center that sells and markets their products, advertises them, organizes excursions to their farms. This kind of cooperation develops the entire local community and everyone is involved in the development of agriculture, which guarantees the retention of young people in the country.

Portuguese representative António Costa Silva expressed concern at reducing rural development allocations, which could cause major inequalities among Member States, as some countries, such as Portugal, are more vulnerable to climate change due to their geographic position.

This session of the Conference went on to discuss the need for streamlining administration, and the participants also debated the issues of declining rural population, efficient management of surplus food and the decreasing value of the land.

Finally, the Chairman of the Croatian Parliament’s Agriculture Committee Tomislav Panenić presented the challenges facing Croatia as a country on the external border of the European Union. He stressed that the migration crisis makes life even more difficult in these depopulated areas, worsening them in terms of demography and economy. “There are overwhelming life circumstances on the EU’s external borders. People living in these areas feel that the measures to assist rural people are absolutely insufficient”, Panenić emphasized.

CAP Post 2020: Demographic Renewal of Rural Areas as the Foundation of the European Agriculture’s Future

Zagreb, 22 November 2018 – The second session of the two-day Interparliamentary Conference held in the Croatian Parliament on “The Role of Parliaments in the Future of Food and Farming” was dedicated to generational renewal. The debate focused on the future measures for encouraging young farmers, among other things, not to leave the rural areas. It was emphasized that the small share of young people in the agricultural sector, who are bearers of innovations and new technologies, represented a major challenge for the competitiveness of European agriculture.

Speaking of young farmers, Chiara Dellapasqua of the European Commission said that only 5.1% of them were under 35, which she considers rather worrying. “This figure shows that, in the European Commission’s view, generational renewal is the CAP’s priority”, said Dellapasqua. She also stressed that Member States were invited to carry out an analysis of the state of land accessibility, loan availability and necessary knowledge in order to see what measures, instruments and tools could bring about generational renewal.

“Challenges facing farmers, such as incomes lagging behind other sectors, business risks that cannot be avoided, difficult access to land, poor creditworthiness and unfair trading practices are not a good invitation for young people”, said MEP Marijana Petir. Talking about figures in Croatian agriculture, she pointed out that the number of farmers under the age of 45 was 18 percent, while the average of the Union was 15 percent. “The number of farms in the Republic of Croatia before joining the EU amounted to about 230 thousand and we currently have about 160 thousand family farms”, she said. “Agriculture is not just a sector. It is a strategic sector important for the security of food supply for which we must ensure the transfer of knowledge and skills to young people”, concluded Petir.

Franc Breznik, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, spoke of Slovenian agriculture, in particular of the position of winemakers. He considers that the key to a more flexible framework for the future of young farmers is to support all their plans, from the modernization of production, investment in technology and equipment, raising business skills and empowering marketing knowledge to improvement of the quality of wine itself. “Simplified procedures should be provided, administrative constraints simplified and local specificities taken into account”, Breznik said.

Vice-President of the European Council of Young Farmers, Tomáš Ignác Fénix stressed the need to harmonize regulations for equal access to land in all Member States, to create a model of funding, to provide free agricultural advisory services, and to impose the obligation of payments of aid for young farmers, which is not present in all EU Member States. Fénix believes that due to different practices, corruption and conflicts of interest, it is necessary to ensure better control and oversight of direct payments in agriculture by an independent European body.

Jan Marinac, President of the Croatian Young Farmers Association, spoke about the importance of know-how transfer from Member States with good practices and of promoting successful agricultural stories as well as of the need for intergenerational cooperation between farmers. “We need to ensure the development of modern agriculture, an important branch for self-employment,” Marinac said.

During the presentations and the discussion, it was emphasized that there was a clear impact of the aging structure of farmers and rural population on the sustainability of agricultural production and rural areas in the European Union in economic and ecological terms. The participants in the discussion agreed that retention of young people in rural areas and the creation of new jobs in this sector should be one of the most important priorities of future Common Agricultural Policy measures.

National Strategic Plans and their impact on Common Agricultural Policy at the heart of the first Session of the Interparliamentary Conference

Zagreb, 22 November 2018 – Ahead of the beginning of the first Session of the Interparliamentary Conference “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming”, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said that it was important to “design” such a common agricultural policy that would be close to the people in different Member States and to their specificities and that national parliaments play a big part in it. – Agricultural policy needs to be modernized within a common framework, giving greater support to young farmers and rural development, said Hogan. He particularly emphasized the importance of agriculture in the context of climate changes, soil conservation, environment and security.

Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić emphasized that Croatia supports EU efforts in relation to the CAP, but that the funds for agriculture in the next programming period from 2021 to 2027 should remain at the same level. Although the EU faces numerous challenges, Tolušić believes that agriculture, as the strongest common policy, should not suffer.- Croatia has been in the EU for five years. EU membership allowed access to funding for agriculture from EU funds, but more could have been done in terms of absorbing the funds, Tolušić said. Although farmers have received more money in this period, Tolušić points out that Croatia has also gained a much more complicated system and more administration, and that it is necessary to simplify it. He also expressed satisfaction with the EC’s proposal to focus on the generational renewal of the agricultural population, which is extremely important for Croatia.

At the beginning of the first Session, Phil Hogan spoke of a new EC proposal on the adoption of national strategic plans for the CAP, which is a novelty compared to the current programming periods. – The goal is to increase flexibility and efficiency, and problems need to be addressed at the level in which they occurred with respect to the common goals of the CAP, Hogan said. Namely, the Union’s legislation would prescribe key elements such as common objectives and indicators to monitor their implementation and the rules for measures financed from the EU budget and, on the other hand, Member States would elaborate details of the implementation of these measures in their national strategic plans in order to achieve common goals, but taking into account their own priorities. Hogan reiterated the importance of the role of national parliaments in approaching and understanding this policy in the public domain. – Our goal is to put farmers in the focus because they are an important factor in environmental protection and actuators of rural development.

The new package of CAP legislative proposals and possible consequences of introducing national strategic plans as proposed by the European Commission as well as other open issues were also addressed by the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the Polish Senate Jerzy Chroscikovski, Vice Chair of the Agriculture Committee of the Hungarian National Assembly Gyorgy Czervan, member of the European Affairs Committee of the National Assembly of France Alexandre Freschi and Paulo Gouveia, Chief Policy Advisor at Copa Cogeca, and later during the debate also by other Conference participants.

During the session many doubts and reservations were expressed with regard to the idea of CAP national strategic plans, along with the position of many Member States that the proposed concept would not deliver simplifications, but, on the contrary, additional obligations and requirements for farmers and national administrations, maybe even to the risk of delay in approvals and consequently in the implementation and financing of actions. The question was raised as to how Member States can contribute to the accomplishment of common goals of the EU, including the goals of environmental and climate policies, while formulating policies which are compatible with their needs.

The debate has revealed that many Member States share the opinion that current budget allocations for CAP should be retained, regardless of the challenges faced by the EU, particularly having in mind the importance of the agricultural community in feeding world’s population, its contribution to environment protection and mitigating climate change. Participants also agreed on enhanced subsidiarity, granting Member States more space to formulate policies by selecting measures in accordance with the needs of their respective agricultural sectors.

Croatian Parliament Speaker Jandroković opens the Interparliamentary Conference “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming”

Jandroković: The European Union will be safe if we assume the active role of a global player

Zagreb, 22 November 2018 – Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković opened on Thursday the Interparliamentary Conference “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming”, held in the Croatian Parliament on 22 and 23 November 2018.

Jandroković expressed satisfaction that the Conference gathered a large number of Members of Parliament from 20 EU Member States and officials from three institutions of the Union – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, to discuss the future of one of the oldest and most important European policies – the Common Agricultural Policy. He emphasized that it was a confirmation of the Croatian Parliament’s recognizing the institute of interparliamentary cooperation and political dialogue in the EU as important instruments for influencing European decision making, but also the right time and need of a concrete discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy among national parliaments and institutions of the European Union and other stakeholders. – This discussion is all the more important since the new Multiannual Financial Framework highlights the priorities of the European Union for the forthcoming period, Jandroković said. “The Common Agricultural Policy does not have the same status now as it used to have. Today, the European Union is faced with a number of challenges which necessitated placing increased emphasis on security and the policies contributing to security. But security must be viewed in a broader sense. The European Union will be safe if it assumes the active role of a global player and demonstrates the strength required to protect its citizens from internal and external threats, from terrorism to climate change. And also if it is economically strong and competitive in an increasingly connected world and reassumes the role as a leading trading power. Agriculture plays an important role in this economic empowerment process”, said Croatian Parliament Speaker Jandroković.

Jandroković further said that the Common Agricultural Policy counted amongst the policies that contributed the most to the positioning of the European Union as a global player and that CAP’s further development was extremely important for Croatia. “Besides being a country of tourism, Croatia is also an agricultural country. Agriculture is a key factor in our overall economic development. The Common Agricultural Policy is the framework in which we want to implement an effective Croatian agricultural policy – with an emphasis on ensuring adequate income for agricultural producers, food independence and strong export of value-added products, with a special focus on family farms, for which we want to ensure greater availability of European funds,” said the Speaker of Parliament adding that in five years of membership, around 164 thousand family farms benefited from aid and rural development funds. “And as a result, their products are recognized in the European Union as they bear one of the European quality labels. Today, Croatia has 19 registered products, 8 are in the registration process, and 10 are about to enter the process, which makes us very proud” Jandroković added and reminded that this was a result, among other things, of the fact that nearly a third of the current European budget was devoted to the Common Agricultural Policy and rural development. “Debates about these policies’ future are therefore important to us”, he concluded. He stressed that Croatia was participating for the first time in the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework which is currently undergoing significant changes and that it was therefore important for us to retain the same resources for cohesion and agricultural policy at the same level – to further strengthen our economy and bring it closer to the level of other Member States.

“We also want that the obligations under our Accession Treaty are respected and that direct payments in agriculture allow our farmers a balanced development and increase their competitiveness and sustainability. We are aware that the Common Agricultural Policy needs to be modernized and adapted to the new circumstances of agricultural prices’ decrease, greater market’s openness and new commitments at the international level due to climate change and sustainable development. We have highlighted the need to modernize the future of the Common Agricultural Policy among the priorities of the Presidency Trio of the Council of the European Union, in which we participate together with Romania and Finland,” said the Speaker of Parliament and stressed that we should bear in mind the 12 million European farms and their importance for the European economy. “Further growth of the European economy and its competitiveness, together with employment growth, especially of youth and people from the rural areas, as well as all aspects of security, transport and energy connectivity and enlargement will be the priorities of the first Croatian Presidency of the Council in the first half of 2020,” said the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković.

He expressed the conviction that this conference would contribute to clarifying the open issues regarding the new European agricultural policy in the next financial period, and “respect the demands of most members to keep the EU Budget for agriculture at the same level as in the current period,” concluded the Speaker of Parliament Jandrokovic at the opening of the Interparliamentary Conference “The Role of Parliaments in Shaping the Future of Food and Farming”.