Brussels revises farming sanctions

EU: Back to the drawing board.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/

The wave of protests by farmers across Spain and Europe has taken effect in Brussels with the European Commission set to reconsider its policies.

Brussels is currently busy with its proposals to streamline the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) following protests by angry farmers across Europe.

This initiative, led by European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, will be unveiled at the European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers on February 26.

Proposal highlights

Among the propositions made by Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski to Von der Leyen are several significant adjustments.

One includes an extraordinary waiver for sanctions linked to non-compliance with certain Good Agrarian and Environmental Conditions (BCAM), such as crop rotation, winter cover, and a 4 per cent reduction in land production.

Another suggests softening the conditions for direct aid from national budgets, potentially allowing states to bolster their support by at least 10 per cent, with organizations like Asaja (Agrarian Association of Young Farmers) seeking an increase to 15 per cent.

Furthermore, the proposals aim to simplify the proof required in CAP applications, especially regarding georeferenced images.

Adjustments to unfair trade practices

Wojciechowski’s agenda also addresses modifications to the 2019 European Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices. After its incorporation into Spanish law at the end of 2021, this became a focal point of the latest Food Chain Law reform.

Proposed changes include stricter regulations on below-cost sales and ensuring that origin prices cover production costs, echoing existing Spanish laws. These changes ‘will ensure that the largest operators do not escape,’ said sources, highlighting the widespread support for these adjustments across Europe.

Agricultural organizations have not held back in their discussions with Wojciechowski. Asaja has even called for the commissioner’s resignation, criticising the Industrial Uses Directive for unfairly equating factories with farms. They also oppose the Nature Restoration Law, citing its potential to severely restrict agri-food activity in Natura2000 network areas.

Their proposal includes the introduction of ‘mirror clauses’ in trade agreements to ensure fair competition, suggesting the formation of a ‘European elite body’ to monitor imports.

Calls for Ffexibility in CAP

The Coordinator of Farmers and Ranchers Organizations (COAG) anticipates that the European ministers will advocate for more flexibility and reduced bureaucracy in the upcoming CAP (2023-2027).

They argue that many environmental measures, especially the ‘eco-regimes’ that affect 23 per cent of direct aid, fail to meet environmental and climate objectives. They describe these as overly bureaucratic and often unfeasible, affecting income without increasing the budget.

Meetings in Brussels continue as Wojciechowski engages with various stakeholders, including Spanish MEPs and agricultural organizations.

Meanwhile, protests in the Spanish countryside are set to persist until the Council Day on 26 February, with planned demonstrations in Madrid and Brussels.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.