Estonian farmers picket EU over subsidies inequalities
Estonian farmers are to picket the Council of the European Union building in Brussels Thursday, calling for equal treatment with the rest of the European Union ahead of the new budgetary period being negotiated, Baltic News Service reports.
The Estonian farmers will be joined by colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania, and hope to highlight disparities in support from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which mean they get significantly lower subsidies than many of their western European contemporaries.
"Although the expectations of food consumers for agricultural products are effectively the same in all EU member states, the compensation for Estonian farmers for meeting various requirements have been significantly lower than the average for many years. said Roomet Sõrmus, board chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPKK).
"Unfortunately, our entrepreneurs are faced with an unfair competition situation also in the new budgetary period," Sõrmus continued, noting that no easing is in sight in not only Estonian farmers' debt burden, but also damage to competitiveness and artificial price advantages for competitors' outputs.
The EU's plans are to move on with the harmonization of the levels of direct agricultural support under a formula whereby the difference between the current level for a member state, and the level of 90 percent of the EU average, would be reduced in six equal steps from 2022 onwards. Based on this formula, the level of direct support for Estonia would be smaller, by almost a quarter, than the EU average, BNS reports.
"Strict obligations have been placed on agricultural producers, starting with environmental protection and animal welfare and ending with easing of climate change. The provision of this has its price, which is why agricultural subsidies are being paid to agricultural producers," Ats continued, describing the system as extremely unfair and distorting to competition.
Representatives of both organizations were due to take part in the rally of Baltic farmers to be held at the building of the Council in Schuman Square in Brussels, from 10.00 a.m. till noon local time, BNS reports.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), in Brussels for the EU 2021-2027 budgetary period negotiations, is expected to meet with the farmers, along with his Latvian counterpart Arturs Krisjanis Karins ,and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
President of the Council Charles Michel made a proposal last week to agree on the budget at a level of 1.074 percent of the union's GDP. In the new long-term budget, significant cuts are planned for the budget of the agricultural policy compared with the current budgetary period.
Other considerations include the percentage of co-financing Estonia, and other transitional EU nations, will have to make under the new terms. Whereas it had been set at 15 percent, the figure is likely to be significantly higher, with 35 percent being touted as a starting point ahead of the talks.
The new period also has to take into account the effects of Brexit, which will leave an estimated €15 billion hole in the budget compared with before.
Estonian farmers have picketed EU buildings in Brussels on similar issues in the past.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte