BirdLife Europe is alarmed by recent reports that Mr. Barroso, the President of the European Commission, is considering scrapping, partially or entirely, the budget of the second pillar (rural development) of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This includes agri-environment – payments to farmers engaged in conservations schemes. Rural development also includes support for investments and diversification of farmers’ revenue.
This could mean a serious cut in the most progressive, most forward looking part of the whole European agricultural policy budget and a direct threat to our farmland environment, including charismatic threatened species such as the Great Bustard (Otis tarda) and Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca).
The threat has surfaced in the run-up to the EU budget communication- the proposal of the European Commission on the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (the EU budget post 2013), which is due to be unveiled on June 29.
Ariel Brunner, Head of EU policy at BirdLife Europe says: “if these reports were true, it would mean that the EU will fail to get anywhere near its recently adopted biodiversity target, and problems like water pollution and soil erosion would further increase”.
A cut to the rural development policy would spell disaster, not only for nature and the environment, but also for some of Europe’s most vulnerable rural populations. Rural development investments are for example crucial for supporting small and disadvantaged farmers to comply with hygiene regulations, improve the on-farm processing and marketing of their produce, enter into organic certification schemes or find additional sources of revenue by diversifying their activity through tourism and recreational business development.
Ariel Brunner added: “The CAP has long been criticized for inefficiency and waste. It would be unbelievable if cuts were targeted at the one part of the policy that is actually delivering for public goods and rural populations.”
Across Europe, from Portugal to Cyprus and from Ireland to Finland, a wide range of wildlife will be affected. BirdLife Europe and its partners have been calling upon the President and the European Commission to remove these potentially devastating cuts from the budget.
Read here the open civil society letter addressed to President Barroso.