Updates on Omnibus Regulation & CAP reform – Council Ministers’ perspective on the “Future of Food and Farming” Communication

© Ralf Kunze on Pixabay

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This week, December 11th and 12th, Ministers of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council gathered in Brussels to discuss, amongst others, the Communication on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) –  “The Future of Food and Farming” – which the European Commission had adopted on 29th November 2017.

Does the Communication on the CAP reform cover all key issues and challenges for the post-2020 CAP? Which are the central strategic issues for the future of CAP? 

These were some of the questions addressed to the Council Ministers by Jyrki Katainen European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, when presenting the document.

 In the press conference following the meeting, Minister of Rural Affairs of the Republic of Estonia Tarmo Tamm spoke on behalf of the Council, generally appraising the proposed ideas set out in the CAP CommunicationMinisters found the current CAP had already achieved its basic objectives and hence stressed that sufficiently large portion of EU budget should be allocated also to the CAP post-2020. Accordingly,

Ministers were in favour of the Commission’s suggestion to keep the main CAP structure as it is, based on two pillars, and reinforced the position that Direct Payments to farmers were further required, while moving to a result-based approach was much favoured.

  • The Ministers opposed the idea of opening Pillar 1 (Direct Payments) to a co-financing through Member States, to allow equal opportunities between countries.
  • The 2nd Pillar (Rural Development measures) was considered to play a key role in solving most agricultural problems.


From left to right: Mr Jyrki KATAINEN, Vice President of the European Commission; Mr Tarmo TAMM, Estonian Minister of Rural Affairs,11.12.2017, Brussels © European Commission

A new “delivery model”?

While agreeing to keep a two-pillar-framework, Ministers also welcomed some new aspects introduced by the Communication. Namely a stronger emphasis on environment and conservation issues as well as a new “delivery model” – an attempt to acknowledge that the previous, rather prescriptive one-size-fits-all approach, could not sustain:

The Communication calls for an increased subsidiarity, meaning that the policy objectives agreed on at EU level will be translated into concrete national or regional strategic plans by the Member States.

Even though aimed at cutting down bureaucracy for Member States and at ensuring fit measures, this delivery mechanism is strongly criticised by member states, civil society and NGOs as it moves towards a renationalization, creating a market situation where farmers will have unequal competition conditions. Commissioner Katainen disagrees, assuring it wouldn’t happen as environmental and climate objectives in the CAP are set at EU level and Member States would have to propose their respective strategy drafts to the Commission – who will only approve them if they ensure the maintenance of a common approach to the delivery of environment and climate objectives across the Member States.

Further, while in favour of a “new delivery model”, Ministers call on the Commission to consider environmental, climate and biodiversity conservation objectives when reviewing agri-environmental measures, Greening measures (which the Commissions would like to see scrapped) and Cross-Compliance.

Council Ministers’ recommendations

Some flaws named by Council Ministers were the remaining need to introduce a real simplification and to develop effective risk management and market measures within the Communication.

Ministers found more funds of budget must be dedicated to research, development & innovation in agriculture, food and drink production as well as in rural development.

Thus arguing in line with the Commissions drive to look at opportunities from the perspectives of bio-economy and Circular Economy. Further, the Council wants to see support of a digitization of agriculture and a strengthening of farmers’ position in the supply chain as well as an increase in sustainability and attractiveness of the sector to ensure generational renewal.

Finally, Commissioner Katainen remarked, that at this point in time, the Communication does not yet provide much detail or legal substance and did not want to pre-judge outcome of Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations. The intention was to set up a well-functioning structure, also allowing for discussion within the Council.

The meeting on the CAP Communication was not about delivering conclusions, but about reacting with questions from the Council to the Commission. Member States had the opportunity to ask for clarification, to discuss what certain points raised in the CAP Communication would mean for the implementation at national levels.

Legally relevant conclusions on the post-2020 CAP will not be made before May 2018, when the European Commission is ought to come up with their legal proposal.

Omnibus regulation – Council adopts new agricultural rules

Even if not on the post-2020 CAP Communication, there were other agriculture-related legal decisions taken within the meeting session on December 12th .The Council adopted new agricultural rules as part of the so called “Omnibus regulation”.

From the 1st of January 2018 a series of technical changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will enter into force and affect the four current CAP regulations.

Affected are direct payments, rural development, common market organisation and the horizontal regulation:

Direct payments

  • The rules on permanent grassland have been modified to provide greater flexibility for member states.
  • Certain elements of greening were altered and in addition, the distinction between active and non-active farmers will become optional for Member States.

Rural development

  • For risk management measures some thresholds have been lowered and support rates increased.
  • Changes in the use of financial instruments were adopted.

Common market organisation

  • Activities usually carried out by producer organisations (planning production, optimising production costs, placing on the market and negotiating contracts for the supply of agricultural products on behalf of members) will be extended to all sectors with a view to improving the position of farmers in the supply chain.

You can find the full text of the Regulation by the European Parliament and the Council here.


Charter Award Ceremony 2017: 21 areas awarded in Brussels

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On the 7th December 2017, EUROPARC welcomed 21 exceptional Protected Areas to the European Parliament in Brussels for awarding them the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism.

The event was kindly hosted by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, who opened the Ceremony with a motivating message. Besides, EUROPARC was delighted to welcome a range of high-level speakers to this year’s Ceremony:  Co-Chair of the Intergroup “European Tourism Development, Cultural Heritage, Ways of St. James and other European Cultural Routes” Claudia Tapardel, Vice President of the Committee of Regions Bureau, Roby Biwer and Member of Cabinet of Commissioner Vella for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Andrew Bianco.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

With each speaker looking at sustainable tourism from their political angle it became evident that the work of the Charter Parks is not only valued but increasingly recognized as a priceless contribution in achieving overarching European Union objectives of increased environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

A shared vision across Europe

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is a practical management tool that enables Protected Areas to develop and implement sustainable tourism strategies, thus benefitting nature and people as well as local economies.

This year EUROPARC re-awarded 14 and welcomed 7 new Charter Parks to the Network. With Kullaberg Nature Reserve from Sweden joining the Charter Network Family we are now counting 164 Charter Parks in 20 countries. They are spread all over Europe, but unite around the shared vision to make sustainable tourism a meaningful quality experience which safeguards natural and cultural values, supports local livelihoods and quality of life and which is after all economically viable.

Kemeris National Park Latvia

Working together

The Charter Award Ceremony has been an excellent occasion to not only celebrate 21 outstanding examples for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas from countries as diverse as Italy, Latvia, Spain, Finland, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Portugal, but also allowed to share experiences and discover how every Park shares the same passion for their Nature and People, for the natural and cultural treasures.

This shared understanding could be felt in the short thank you speeches given by the Park representatives when accepting the Charter Award Certificate. Even if not all of them were given in English, combined translation efforts allowed to make every contribution understood. A beautiful example of the major aspect the Charter Network is all about. The Charter works, because we work in partnership, highlighted EUROPARC Director Carol Ritchie.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

The key principles of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas comprise the protection of the natural and cultural heritage, participation by all stakeholders, effective partnership working, planning to prepare and implement a sustainable tourism strategy, to realise the environmental, social and economic benefits of everyone working more sustainably.

…for natural and cultural heritage

That the Charter Network “works” could also be witnessed by the contributions of the invited speakers: Claudia Tapardel, Roby Biwer and Andrew Bianco all clearly called on the present Charter Parks – in representation for the wider Network – to seek close exchange and cooperation with their Institutions at EU level. Especially given the upcoming “European Year of Cultural Heritage”, which will be dedicated to celebrating and discovering the diverse European cultures. With our shared nature forming an inseparable part of Europe’s cultural heritage.

The upcoming year will be a chance to challenge the misconception of a nature-culture divide and to re-connect people with their natural environment.

For this reason, EUROPARC will dedicate a range of next year’s events to reinforce the authentic experience of nature-people connection, and Charter Parks can play a key role allowing people first-hand visitor experiences in their Protected Areas. The first event will be the 2018 Siggen Seminar in March, where we look at natural heritage interpretation as part of our cultural heritage. Participation is free to EUROPARC members and registrations have just opened.

We need to tap the potential of opening “hidden treasures”, as EUROPARC President Ignace Schops referred to often overlooked and undervalued “forgotten destinations”, to the immediate experience of people.

The statements shared by the Awarded Parks left no room for doubt that they are speaking the same language as the EUROPARC President. It made us understand how Protected Areas are eager and capable of bridging gaps: between nature and people or between the seemingly contradicting objectives of local economic development and nature conservation.

Photo album and Parks awarded

Sustainable Destinations awarded in 2017

New 7 Sustainable Destinations

From the 21 Charter areas that were awarded, 7 have just started their path towards becoming a Sustainable Destination.





14 Sustainable Destinations re-awarded

For the first time in the history of EUROPARC, the number of Parks re-awarded was higher than the Sustainable Destinations joining the Network. This number highly reflects the commitment of Parks in working with their local stakeholders, under the standards of the ECSTPA. Several of these Parks are also implementing Charter Part II and Charter Part III, necessary steps for those willing to achieve a higher quality tourism experience, for people and nature alike.



France and Italy






United Kingdom

We would like to congratulate and thank all the awarded Charter Parks once more for having celebrated with us here in Brussels and for having made the Charter Award Ceremony 2017 a real success!

We hope the event left all participants feeling energized and inspired to engage even more with or within the Charter Network. To keep your memories alive we share with you the photos taken throughout the event.

Glyphosate debate in Brussels

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

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The re-authorisation of the widely used but highly controversial plant protection product glyphosate was subject to a heated debate in Brussels. Its permission for use in the EU would expire by the 15th December this year and Member States have repeatedly failed to take their vote on the European Commission proposal to reapprove the active substance glyphosate for another ten years. However, on the 27th November, a consensus has been reached: glyphosate use was extended for another 5 years. 

The beginning of the discussion

The Commission called strongly on Member States to position themselves as it is faced with heavy public opposition towards the proposed renewal and controversies about the credibility and capability of EU research assessing glyphosate’s harmful impacts on health and the environment remain.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) concluded that glyphosate is safe, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Given these concerns, since the debate on a renewal of glyphosate’s license had started in 2015, no qualified majority of Member States was willing to take a clear position on glyphosate’s license renewal. Hence, the Commission had already delayed its final decision on a re-approval twice in 2016 and provisionally authorized a temporary 18 months extension of the license. As this temporary solution is to expire in December, the Commission was pressured to take a final vote.

The position of the EU Commission…

Earlier this year, reluctant to be held solely responsible for deciding on the future of glyphosate, the Commission stated that it saw no grounds to call into question the scientific assessments and conclusions on glyphosate carried out in the European Union, but that it would nevertheless not want to decide on a licence renewal if Member States do not clearly vote in favour of the current proposal for a license period of five to seven years with a qualified majority. This means that 55% of the EU countries, representing 65% of the European population would have to agree on the proposal.

In a voting on 9th November 2017 at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed:

  • 14 Member States voted in favour of a further approval of glyphosate for 5 years (representing 36.95 % of the EU population),
  • 9 Member States voted against (representing 32.26 % of the EU population) and 5 Member States abstained (representing 30.79 % of the EU population).

Consequently, the Committee delivered a no opinion on this proposal and following the comitology procedure, the Commission now referred the proposal to the appeal committee. This appeal committee is again made up of EU countries’ representatives, chaired by the Commission and conducted a new voting on 27th November…

…and the approval of Glyphosate for the next 5 years!

On the 27th November, a majority in favour of the proposal by the European Commission to renew the approval of glyphosate for a period of 5 years was reached by the Appeal Committee. Some modifications were made to the draft Implementing Regulation during the meeting.

EU Parliament: towards a full ban…

On 24th October, the European Parliament has agreed on a final position, a non-binding resolution, concerning the Commission’s proposal, demanding glyphosate phase-out, resulting in a full ban by the end of 2022. Preparations for this position involved a public hearing with experts organised by Members of the Agriculture and Environment Committees on 11th October. Present at the hearing were representatives from EU and the USA involved in research activities concerning health and environmental risks of glyphosate as well as such experts critically observing those assessments.

The institutions represented were ECHA (European Chemicals Agency), EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), IARC (International Agency for the Research on Cancer), CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory). Attending as individual scientists were Jennifer Sass and Christopher Portier. More information on the individual attendees and their presentations can be found here.

With these experts, the Parliamentary Committees ENVI and AGRI discussed potential bias of research and risk assessment as well as general flaws in the ordinary EU research and legislation process in the field of chemicals. The discussed flaws and health concerns in mind while and at the same time considering the fact, that the upcoming decision on glyphosate’s future availability will have significant economic impact on a great proportion of European farmers the Parliament decided to propose a re-approval of glyphosate, while at the same time stressing the need to transition to possible safer, low-risk alternatives.

In their position, Members of the parliament strongly called on Member States and the Commission to consider these aspects when deciding about glyphosate’s license and when deciding on further actions concerning the development, authorisation and placing on the Union market of pesticide.

…or a “sustainable use of pesticides”?

Meanwhile, on the 13th November, Agriculture MEPs and Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis discussed the sustainable use of pesticides and ways to combat antimicrobial resistance. Positions were divided and given the soon-to-be-made decision, on the particular pesticide glyphosate the discussion turned into a debate on next steps.

While some MEPs stressed that the glyphosate must be phased-out, citing concerns over its potential carcinogenicity, others rejected what they called scaremongering and insisted that the EU’s decision must be science-based and for the sake of food security must not tie farmers′ hands.

Andriukaitis_by EurActiv

Commissioner Andriukaitis suggested to look at scientific arguments and apply “common sense approach” rather than to “create fear”. There is no scientific proof that glyphosate is carcinogenic, he said and dismissed what he called “conspiracy theories” about multinationals’ efforts to influence EU decisions.

“Stop Glyphosate”

In the meantime, Civil Society organisations and different interest groups continue to reach out to national and EU decision-makers: The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) entitled “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides” had gathered over one million signatures of European citizens from 22 Member States within less than a year, requesting not only a ban of glyphosate, but explicitly “to propose to Member States a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

The participation in the ECI clearly demonstrates a growing public awareness and interest of European Citizens to engage in the much wider debate on the future of plant protection practices: Concerning the cases of private use and application in public areas, but primarily the application in the agricultural industry.

To follow the decision-making process and relevant position papers from the Commission, you can have a look here. To get a grip on the events through the lens of Civil Society (Environmental NGOs) you can find a chronological overview of major milestones here.

For more background on the approval and use of active substances and pesticides in the EU you can visit the European Commission information website on the issue and check more details on glyphosate from EU perspective here.



European Parliament Fact Sheet on EU Chemical Legislation

European Commission on pesticides in the European Union – Including a database and overview of the active substance approval procedure:

 Different opinions – Voices of farmers:

 Farmers arguing in favour of glyphosate: article 1 and article 2

Thoughts on transitioning to alternative means of agriculture

Case Studies on Biodiversity from EUROPARC members 

European Year of Cultural Heritage launched today!

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EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe join forces to support the European Year of Cultural Heritage

On the occasion of the official launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe announce a partnership, focusing on the role of natural heritage to explore cultural identity.

Today, the European Year of Cultural Heritage was launched in Milan. In order to contribute to the Year, the EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe agreed to co-operate on a project:

  • Focusing on the role of natural heritage to explore cultural identity
  • Investigating ways that heritage interpretation can encourage citizens to reflect upon this relationship.

In many cases, cultural identity is rooted in the connection to the land. Heritage interpretation is a powerful medium to help communities appreciate their history and challenge their future. This partnership brings together parks, communities and experts in interpretation. Special attention shall be given to young people and how they understand and influence their cultural identity.

Activities in 2018

The EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe will gather contributions from all actors, across all events, to identify the challenges of good practice and opportunities for people and places. Throughout the Year, the EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe will focus on four key events:

About the organisations

The EUROPARC Federation represents about 400 organisations, which is thousands of protected areas, in 36 countries and facilitates international co-operation in all aspects of protected area management to further improve and conserve our shared natural inheritance. Interpret Europe has more than 500 individual, organisation and corporate members in 45 countries. Its mission is to serve all who use first-hand experiences to give natural and cultural heritage a deeper meaning.

For further information please contact mail @ interpret-europe.net or b.pais @ europarc.org.

  Interpret Europe

Am Rasen 23

37214 Witzenhausen



  EUROPARC Federation

Waffnergasse 6

93047 Regensburg