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Baltic Farmers: “unfair is still unfair”

Date

04 Dec 2019

Sections

Agriculture & Food

BRUSSELS, 4 December 2019 - A coalition made up of all agricultural associations from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania today sent an open letter to European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Davide Sassoli, reiterating the urgent need to ensure the fair distribution of direct payments under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The open letter comes at the start of the EU institutions’ 2019-2024 mandate and ahead of the European Council meeting on 12 December 2019. It stresses that Baltic farmers have systematically received no more than 54-60% of the European average in direct payments, in spite of their repeated calls for a fair calculation. Whereas Baltic farmers receive the lowest direct payments in the EU, their production costs are much higher than the EU average, amounting to respectively 129% (Estonia), 112% (Lithuania) and 113% (Latvia). The Baltic farmers are also worried about the growing emphasis on environmental requirements in the CAP, which might lead to an even heavier burden on the sector.

The negotiations on the European Commission’s legislative proposals on the post-2020 CAP are currently on-going and are expected to be shaped by the discussions on the EU’s 2021-2027 Multi-Annual Framework (MFF), resuming at next week’s gathering of the EU Heads of State and Government. Nearly seven years ago, on 7-8 February 2013, the European Council unanimously agreed that, “by 2020 at the latest, all Member States should reach the level of at least EUR 196 per hectare at current prices”. The Baltic farmers now highlight that this has not happened and that their level in 2020 is approximately EUR 176.

The Baltic farmers gathered in Brussels exactly one year ago, and before that in 2013, to protest against the unfair calculation by singing traditional songs from their countries. However, the situation has not improved. A spokesperson of the coalition said that the Baltic farmers stay committed to their aim of achieving a political agreement which corrects a historical mistake and that reflects 100% fairness. He additionally pointed out that “the roots of the unfair distribution lie in the EU accession phase. When the Baltic states joined the EU in 2004, the initial payment calculations were based on a reference period during which the countries were undergoing major land reform, transitioning from the Soviet Kolkhozes model to family farming structures. The result of an unprecedented drop of productivity during those years, which obviously did not show actual production capacity, was taken as reference.”

Over the past few weeks and in the days to come, farmers across the Baltic states will launch a uniquely peaceful campaign to raise awareness of their concerns. They will be baking traditional bread and donating one fourth of it to charity, demonstrating that, through the current allocation of funds, they pay for 100% of the bread, but end up getting only 75% of it. As a symbolic gesture, the Baltic farmers will also ask their Heads of State to bring the traditional bread, minus one quarter, to the European Council summit.

 

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