Agriculture and fisheries
Since the introduction of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies, many changes have been made to the organisation of the markets, to the fixing of quotas and prices, to the scope of activities of producer organisations and processing industries. This accelerated during the 2009-2014 term of office with the proposal and ensuing adoption of the CAP and CFP policies.
For the sake of our environment and the livelihoods of small and medium sized fisheries, our MEPs believe we must end overfishing now; if we continue the current rate of predation, by 2050 there will be no more fish available for commercial fishing. The reduction in catches is an ecological urgency, but it is also an economic imperative.
We consider that the EU's Common Fisheries Policy - from the social, environmental or economic standpoint - is a disaster and there is an urgent and imperative need for establishing environmental objectives to be accompanied by the definition of social and economic objectives. The Commission must do away with the idea of trying to privatize the common good that is fishing resources.
Account needs to be taken of the realities and particularities of each country, each fishing zone, each fleet and resources, and for fishers to be involved in the solutions and their implementation. We also need to protect coastal regions and islands with active fishing sectors.
The European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group considers there is a need for sustainable and just agriculture policies that protect the environment and save small rural communities. Agriculture policy must cease damaging the livelihoods of small farmers and putting agribusiness first. The most recent reform of the CAP does not make it possible to respond to the key challenges - to improve the quality of life for small and medium farmers. We need to start a process of transition to environmentally-friendly and climate-friendly agriculture with sustainable management of resources. We need new incentives for farmers who are working for all of society. This reform is a missed opportunity to promote a farmer-friendly form of agriculture to provide better food quality and security as well as food sovereignty. Our group is dissatisfied with financial reductions for the Common Agricultural Policy for 2014-2020 and with the fact that the Commission ignores previously achieved agreements on variety of issues. We seek an alternative path, arguing for an end of the scandalous inequalities in direct payments between countries and producers by 2020 - inequalities that persist with this reform. We defend a market regulation capable of ensuring fair prices for production and advocate regulatory instruments of production, adjusted to the needs of each country.
A debate on the Dess report in June 2011 outlining ideas for the forthcoming reform and modernisation of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), due to be released by the Commission in October 2011, gave rise to mixed reactions by the Group, which welcomed the new direction the proposed reform was taking in terms of employment and the environment but lacked improvement for small working farmers. The key thread of the report is its green component. This is a welcome move forward, but we must clearly support active farmers and production-oriented agriculture.
In 2011, the GUE/NGL hosted a public hearing entitled "CAP 2020" which heard from farmers, rural policy experts, cattle-breeders' unions and environmental organisations. During the hearing, organisations such as the European Coordination of Via Campesina presented its position on the need for a fourth option, different from the three proposed for the CAP reform post-2013 by the European Commission.
CRISIS IN THE DAIRY SECTOR
Milk farmers throughout Europe protested on a number of occasions throughout this term of office against a 6% shortfall in their production prices whilst consumer prices for dairy products had increased by 16%. GUE/NGL MEPs were critical of the €280 million aid to be granted to the sector against the previously announced €600 million. The Group told the Commission that it said it was restricted by the budget, that it was held back by financial restraints but that it could nonetheless find many billions to rescue the banks which today abound in profit while small and medium-sized farmers are left in bankruptcy and ruin.
IMBALANCES IN THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN
In a world in which agricultural output is being used both for food and energy production, the group urged the Commission to develop a mechanism to prevent financial speculation on the food market because a situation has arisen throughout the world where agricultural products are now used both in food and in energy production. Grain is used for bioethanol, rape for biodiesel, maize for biogas, and so on. As a result, financial resources that used to circulate on the fossil fuel market are now also flowing into the food production sector and are causing excessive price fluctuations. The European Commission should, as a matter of urgency, pay more attention to these issues, and should, as swiftly as possible, develop a mechanism to prevent financial speculation on the food market based on this factor.
DIRECT PAYMENTS TO FARMERS
As direct payments are an important financial mechanism for ensuring equal opportunities to all, solidarity and development, the group expressed its belief that proper determination of direct payments is not only necessary for a common, honest and fair market, but also very important in the social sphere. We believe that direct payments should be no smaller than 80% of the European Union average.
PROTECTION OF ANIMALS DURING TRANSPORT
The Group backed a report on this issue but set out some additional demands. First, transport programmes should be put place with the establishment of small local abattoirs, which would also resolve unemployment. Second, it should be stipulated that a standard transport agreement should be signed by farmer and carrier. Transport regulations for transporting the specific animal breed, supported scientifically, and should be included in the agreement, as well as the temperature regime, water availability, number of animals and journey length in different countries. Compliance with these regulations should be mandatory. Transport, where possible, should have automatic climate control systems.
COMMON FISHERIES POLICY
The GUE/NGL group voted against an EP report on the proposed reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in February 2010 considering that it furthered attempts to privatise fisheries resources. The Group maintained that the reality of the fisheries sector in the EU is complex and diverse. In these circumstances, the importance of local management, as opposed to the centralised framework of the Lisbon Treaty, must be emphasised. We need to take into account the realities and particularities of each country, each fishing zone and each fleet, involving fishermen in the solutions. This is very different from the mere implementation of a centrally defined policy.
A report on the implementation of the common fisheries policy by GUE/NGL MEP João Ferreira was adopted by the Parliament in April 2011. One of the report’s aims was to bring CFP legislation more closely in line with recent trends in the sector and boost its future prospects. Although GUE/NGL proposals to allow for increased rates of co-financing (from 50% to 60%) in the collection, management and use of scientific data on fisheries resources were not adopted, the report was still a positive step forward.
EUROPEAN FISHERIES FUND
As the economic and financial crisis expressed itself differently in the various Member States, this was seen to be the cause of existing divergences and imbalances and to reflect the inequalities existing between the Member States. One of these was the capacity for accessing and using EU funds. Countries with weaker economies, which need more EU funding, are often also those with the greatest difficulties in accessing these funds. For years, this resulted, in large measure, from the restrictions on public investment, imposed under the pretext of the Stability and Growth Pact, which made it hard to mobilise the required national effort. These restrictions are currently being greatly exacerbated by the IMF and EU programmes under way in countries like Portugal, Greece and Ireland.
The group was critical of the outcome of a major vote on Commission proposals for reforming the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) saying it was far from the type of fisheries reform needed for a sector facing such serious difficulties. The rejection of the introduction of private property rights to access fisheries resources, which would lead an effective privatisation of the sea, is a very important step, was welcomed by the group. It was also disappointed that amendments which advocated for greater decentralisation of the CFP and which sought to introduce special conservation measures were rejected.