This week in Europe: 21-24 January… no to milk lakes, yes to skilled migrants and bees

Proposals for a revised Common Agricultural Policy met with mixed emotions

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee (AGRI) voted on reform proposals to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). ALDE MEPs welcomed the votes in general as a major step towards a more sustainable European agricultural model. However, ALDE condemns the possible double payment for greening and agri-environmental measures and rejects a possible return to failed past policies of heavy market interventions.

Commenting after the votes, George Lyon MEP (UK, Liberal Democrat), ALDE team leader on the AGRI committee and shadow rapporteur on the direct payments report, said:

Today’s vote is a big step forward towards a more sustainable farming model that can respond to the big challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss by reducing energy, water, nutrient use and GHG Emissions while still making a contribution to food security. We are finally moving away from income support without any strings attached. Instead we have begun the move towards a much more targeted funding approach to reward farmers for the public goods they deliver.

Meanwhile, ALDE MEP Marit Paulsen (Sweden, Liberal People’s Party), who negotiated the CAP dossier on the rural development fund on behalf of ALDE, added:

Incentivising environmentally friendly farming techniques is an important means to reforming Europe’s agriculture. However, paying farmers twice for the same measures is unacceptable and counterproductive. We must address this anomaly when we come to plenary and make it clear that only unique environmental efforts will be eligible for payments.

Sensible migration policies for a changing world?

Nadja HirschOn Thursday, the Parliament’s Employment committee unanimously adopted the report drafted by Nadja Hirsch (Germany, FDP) on the integration of migrants, its effects on the labour markets and the external dimension of social security coordination. Eurobarometer surveys show that 70% of EU citizens think that immigrants are necessary for the European economy. Indeed, given European demographic trends, the EU needs to make itself an attractive place for skilled migrants to remain competitive in a globalized world.

Calling for an active migration policy on EU level, Hirsch said;

I have asked the European Commission to draw up and introduce a common, criteria-based European entry-system for skilled labour. Such a system should be in line with the European Qualification Framework approach of accumulating and transferring credits. Member States would be able to join the scheme on a voluntary basis.

Commission stung on bee health

chris daviesFollowing last week’s report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) on the dangers of commonly used insecticides to bees and other pollinators, Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies is calling on the European Commission to act swiftly in proposing EU-wide restrictions on certain neonicotinoid pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam).

Even sub-lethal doses of those chemicals have been found to impair the orientation skills and disrupt the reproductive health of bumble bees. The EFSA reports conclude that neonicotinoid pesticides should be used only on crops that are not attractive to honey bees, so that the insects are not exposed to the insecticides through pollen and nectar. Dust and plant sap contaminated with the chemicals may also pose a risk.

Commenting ahead of today’s debate with the author of the EFSA study and representatives from the Commission in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, Chris said:

There is growing scientific evidence that these widely used insecticides, even when applied in non-lethal doses, can cause havoc among bee colonies. It’s time now for the Commission to act. It should propose measures to ensure that bees can come to no harm through controls or bans on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe.

The Environment Committee will also discuss an independent study by the European Parliament’s Policy Department which was conducted at his request last year. A Commission official concluded by saying that more details might be given at the end of the Agriculture Council on Monday, making it clear that legislation was an option, and gave the impression that we should know something more in months not years, but the scope and timetable was not spelt out. He said that four EU countries had now introduced restrictions of one kind or another and the Commission would wish to go with the flow rather than contradict what these were doing.

* Mark Valladares is Liberal Democrat Voice’s Friday day editor and a member of the ALDE Financial Advisory Committee.

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