The Portuguese candidates for the EU elections from centre-left and left parties PS, PSD, PCP and BE, have voiced concern about the planned budget cuts in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The conservative CDS party criticised the Lisbon government’s “tragic inability” to draw on these funds. EURACTIV’s media partner Lusa reports.
The Confederation of Portuguese Farmers launched a debate in Brussels involving the candidates from all these parties, at a time when the European Union proposes a 5% cut in the CAP spending, which will affect several countries, Portugal included.
The Portuguese MEP André Bradford, Socialist Party’s candidate, pointed out that “there is a substantial and blatant difference between what the European Commission says about the CAP and the CAP proposal itself”.
Brussels “says that [the proposal] will be more ambitious than the previous one, with a broader range, but at the same time with less funding and cheaper”, he added, highlighting that “this situation needs to be clarified and corrected” in order for “the CAP to be strengthened in the next parliamentary term”.
“We are worried to see that the CAP has a lower global budget than before, there is a cut for Portugal, and we are also concerned with the co-financing rates’ issue – placing a financial burden, that will double its value, on the member states,” André Bradford said.
MEP José Manuel Fernandes, Social Democratic Party’s candidate, refused to “accept cuts in the CAP”, pointing out that the estimated cut in the first pillar totals €500 million and €1.2 billion in the second one.
Fernandes supported a “proposal without cuts in the CAP, as well as in the cohesion policy, and one that foresees investment” in the agriculture sector.
The Portuguese MEP also stressed the need “to keep low co-financing rates” and to promote “fair income support to attract the youngsters to this sector”.
MEP João Pimenta Lopes of the Communist Party is also concerned about the cuts, mentioning that the “Portuguese government will have a key role in the European Council” to reassess the countries’ contributions for the CAP in order to avoid going from 15% to 30%.
Nevertheless, the communist MEP pointed out the “significant inequalities under the model still in force”, mentioning that 13% of the beneficiaries get 80% of Portugal’s total funding.
“We believe that there must be a paradigm shift in the CAP proposal under discussion”, he added.
Marisa Matias, who heads the list for the Left Block, said there was “still time for discussion, but the Commission’s proposal is bad, so we should get together to fight it”. The CAP must “promote fair competition – not the opposite – and a decent compromise between member states,” she added.
For his part, Nuno Melo, the top candidate of the conservative People’s Party, dismissed as “extraordinary” concerns about losing funds in the CAP, “considering that Portugal loses funds every single day”.
He said he was opposed to cuts in the CAP but also stressed “the ‘tragic inability of the Portuguese government to draw on the Community funds”.
Melo also criticised “the lack of public investment and the long time needed for projects to be approved in Portugal, particularly in critical areas such as the wine sector”.
The European Commission proposal, launched in June 2018, anticipates that Portugal will receive a total of €4.2 billion in the CAP’s first pillar and €3.4 billion in the second one for the 2021-27 multiannual financial framework, at current prices.
In the previous 2014-20 financial framework, Portugal received a total of €4.1 billion in the CAP’s first pillar (direct payments to farmers) and €4.082 billion in the second one (rural development).