COVID-19: MEPs demand better aid for EU wine, fruit and vegetable growers  

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The Agriculture Committee endorsed on Tuesday one set of exceptional market measures to help the EU wine, fruit and vegetable producers but rejected another one for not being good enough.

To ensure that the wine, fruit and vegetable sectors get further support as quickly as possible, the Agriculture Committee decided to proactively greenlight, by 46 votes in favour to one against, with one abstentions, the delegated regulation tabled by the EU Commission on 4 May, instead of waiting for the two-month objection period to pass. The measures provide for additional flexibility to farmers and producer organisations when it comes to making changes in operational programmes or extending support linked to green harvesting and mutual funds.


Call for further measures to help the sectors


But MEPs also launched a procedure that could lead to the rejection of another delegated regulation the Commission adopted on 30 April. They voted by 36 votes in favour to 11 against, with one abstentions, to recommend that Parliament vetoes an older set of market measures for wine, fruit and vegetable producers, which are already in place, for not going far enough .


MEPs want the Commission to improve the original aid package with additional targeted measures. These should include increasing co-financing rates, extending the list of eligible measures and expenses under the fruit and vegetables operational programmes, allowing carry-over of unused funds from these programmes to the next year and providing additional regulatory flexibilities within and beyond the national wine support programmes.


The committee also extended the deadline for a potential veto by Parliament to give the Commission more time to improve the proposed measures. The new deadline for rejecting the delegated act has been set for 31 August.


Quote


“The Commission’s support measures for the wine, fruit and vegetable growers are by far not enough and we have repeatedly asked Commissioner Wojciechowski to improve them. This has not happened so far and therefore we have endorsed today only some of these measures and we have put our green light for the other ones on hold. We have also extended the deadline for our potential veto to give Mr Wojciechowski more time. We urge the Commission not to waste it,” Agriculture Committee Chair Norbert Lins (EPP, DE) said.


Next steps

According to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, the Agriculture Committee’s motion to swiftly greenlight support measures, if endorsed by the Conference of Committee Chairs, should be announced at the beginning of one of the next EP plenary sessions, most probably during the 17 - 18 June sitting in Brussels. Unless at least one political group or more than 35 MEPs object to the motion within 24 hours following the announcement, the delegated act is deemed approved. Otherwise, the House will vote on it.


The delegated act can enter into force early if it is endorsed by both the Parliament and the Council or once the objection period expires with no objection raised.


The Agriculture Committee’s recommendation to reject the part of the aid package deemed insufficient by its members will now be submitted to the plenary. Parliament can veto the delegated act by absolute majority of its component members. The committee also decided to extend the deadline for raising objections to this delegated act until 31 August.


Background

The EU Commission announced on 22 April and published on 4 May further measures to support the agri-food sector. The Agriculture Committee Chair Norbert Lins (EPP, DE) welcomed the new aid package as a step in the right direction, but not big enough, and called on the Commission to get serious.


During the debate with Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski on 30 April, MEPs welcomed the announced measures as a good first step but insisted strongly that they had to be followed up with further actions and money. The Agriculture Committee Chair address several letters to the EU Commission on the subject. In the letter dated 27 April, Mr Lins voiced detailed criticism of the package and offered ways to improve it. In another letter sent out on 7 May, Mr Lins urged Commissioner Wojciechowski to improve the package and warned that failure to do that might lead to its partial rejection in the Parliament.