Members of the newly constituted Agriculture Committee voiced harsh criticism of the recently reached EU-Mercosur agreement-in-principle in a debate with Commissioner Phil Hogan on Tuesday.
Potential negative consequences on EU farmers and lack of impact assessment on various agricultural sectors in member states were among the issues raised during the debate.
You can follow the interventions of speakers by clicking on their names.
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.
Hogan: Ambitious deal that takes into account farmers’ concerns too
Commissioner Hogan said in his opening statement that “the [EU-Mercosur] agreement is balanced but also comprehensive and ambitious”. Even though the deal might be “challenging for certain agriculture sectors”, the EU Commission “has done its utmost to try and defend interests of agriculture” and it has “secured important opportunities for some sectors in agriculture: wine, spirits, olive oil, dairy, processed foods, to name but a few”, he stressed.
“Access to the European Union market is being granted in a limited and controlled way to the Mercosur countries and it takes account of concerns of European farmers and consumer preferences”, Commissioner Hogan explained. “All imported products must comply with the European Union’s own standards” he stressed adding that “EU food safety standards are not negotiable and will be applied rigorously”.
Commissioner Hogan also said that the EU’s executive is ready to give a helping hand if the implementation of the agreement leads to market disturbances. In such a case, the Commission “has committed to making available a €1bn support package exclusively for the agriculture sector“, he explained.
But this did not impress many MEPs who voiced their concerns about potential impact the pre-agreed deal could have on EU farmers and consumers.
“Many farmers are worried and concerned” because they feel “they will bear the brunt”, said Herbert Dorfmann (EPP, DE).
“There are some very critical issues”, said Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT) who questioned the speeding-up of negotiations at the end of the legislative term and stressed the committee will debate the agreement and study its impact on EU farmers thoroughly.
“If you look at this in detail, it is the high-quality part that we are really concerned about”, said Ulrike Müller (RE, DE) driving the attention also to the “climate challenges” linked to the agreement.
“It is worse than we expected”, said Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) warning that “the beef market in Europe is going to be on its knees in a couple of years”. He also said farmers are “victims of a policy” to “sell industrial products even if that means sacrificing agriculture”.
“The trade deal with Mercosur will only make things worse for European farming”, said Ivan David (ID, CZ). “It is not an opportunity, it is a threat”, he stressed adding that he will not “accept changes that make our situation worse”.
Mazaly Aguilar (ECR, ES) asked Commissioner Hogan “what farmers are going to have to do to be able to prove that they might receive some of these money”, referring to the €1bn package for potential market disturbances following the implementation of the trade deal.
“At the time when Ireland faces the possibility of losing access to its most important market, at the time when the Commission accepts (...) that beef farmers are under pressure, how does it make any sense to contemplate such a deal?” Luke Ming Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IE) asked.
The full debate, which focused also on the ongoing reform of the EU farm policy and other agriculture-related topics, with further interventions from Commissioner Hogan and reactions of other MEPs, is available here.
The EU and Mercosur negotiators reached on 28 June a political agreement-in-principle on a trade deal that would boost economic and political ties between the European Union and the bloc consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The pre-agreement, that would cover a population of 780 million, has already raised concerns among the EU’s farming community. Before entering into force, the deal has to win support of the European Parliament.
Tuesday, 23 July 2019
Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
In the chair: Norbert Lins (EPP, DE)