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  • boosting farmers’ bargaining power in line with Omnibus deal
  • unfair trading practices to be monitored, tackled and penalised
  • cautious approach to negotiating international trade deals

EU competition rules must be further improved to benefit both farmers and consumers and deliver food security for the continent.

This is the main message of the opinion for the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on the Annual competition policy report that the Agriculture Committee approved on Monday by 19 votes in favour to three against, with three abstentions.

 

“A strong and efficient EU competition policy has always been a cornerstone of the European project, but it must be adjusted to the needs of EU farmers and expectations of EU consumers! The opinion Agriculture Committee adopted today with an overwhelming majority looks at interests of both - consumer and farmers - with the latter also being represented by producer organisations or their associations”, said Agriculture Committee’s rapporteur Tibor Szanyi (S&D, HU).

 

“Today’s vote sends a strong signal on unfair trading practices, which should be better monitored and prosecuted at EU level. Proposals on boosting farmers' bargaining power and on using crisis derogations from competition rules reiterate what we have been aiming at in the deal on Omnibus regulation”, he added.

 

Competition policy to work for both farmers and consumers

 

EU competition rules must defend the interests of farmers and consumers’ with the same vigour, MEPs insist. Farmers need fair access to the internal market to boost investment and innovation, employment, viability of their businesses and balanced development of rural areas, they say.

 

To this end, the Commission and member states should encourage and help farmers in all sectors to use tools foreseen in the so-called Omnibus regulation to negotiate collectively their delivery contracts and boost thus their competitiveness, MEPs say. They also call on the Commission to define the dominant position in the food supply chain and its abuse more clearly.

 

New EU law to tackle and penalise unfair trading practices needed now

 

The EU competition rules have so far not helped to do away with unfair trading practices (UTPs) and power imbalances in the food supply chain, MEPs say. They therefore call on the Commission to table as soon as possible the eagerly awaited draft EU law against unfair trading practices to ensure that UTPs are properly monitored, tackled and penalised.

 

Further exemptions to help farmers deliver in crisis times

 

In times of severe market imbalances farmers need additional time-limited exemptions from EU competition rules to minimise negative effects of potential disruptions of essential food supplies on EU citizens, reiterates the approved text.

 

MEPs also want to increase the so-called de minimis aid, i.e. small amounts of aid for farmers that by default cannot be considered a state aid, to 1.25% of national agricultural production to alleviate the difficult economic situation of farmers.

 

Caution when negotiating international trade deals

 

The Commission should fully take into account the effect of possible market distortions resulting from trade agreements with third countries on EU farmers, says the approved text. MEPs warn that too wide opening of EU market to major exporters from third countries could be way too risky for the EU’s most sensitive farm sectors.

 

Next Steps

 

The opinion of the Agriculture committee will be scrutinised by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee early next year. It will then have to be looked at by the Parliament as a whole.

 

 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

In the chair: Czesław Adam Siekierski (EPP, PL)

Disclaimer: this is an informal message intended to help journalists covering the work of the European Parliament. It is neither an official press release nor a comprehensive record of proceedings.