The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has found that the ‘greening’ of direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been environmentally ineffective.
Green direct payments were introduced under the last reform of the CAP, in 2013, and account for around one third of EU countries’ direct payment budgets. To be eligible, they require farmers to diversify crops, maintain permanent grasslands and set aside around 5% of arable land as ecological focus areas.
The ECA, which scrutinises the cost-effectiveness of EU law, says in its report: “Overall we conclude that greening, as currently implemented, is unlikely to significantly enhance the CAP’s environmental and climate performance.”
The court found that greening adds complexity to the CAP and related difficulties in implementation. It also found that greening remains essentially an income support scheme.
According to the report, greening requirements are “generally undemanding and largely reflect normal farming practice” and that due to the many exemptions in the policy two thirds of farmers qualify for green payments without being subject to greening obligations.
The European Commission recently published its strategy paper, or ‘communication’, on the direction it plans to take the CAP in its next reform, for the post-2020 period.
Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN Regional Office, said: “The next reform of the CAP needs to contribute to tangible environmental improvements and European farmers need to be properly rewarded when they deliver ecosystem services. Europe needs to continue to set a clear and accountable framework before any national implementation.”