Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 20 March 2018


CAP post-2020: Court of Auditors issues timely reality check, whilst Agri Council in confusion with squabbling ministers and incoherent presidency conclusions


Agriculture ministers failed to agree on the CAP Conclusions in Agrifish Council yesterday, leaving the Bulgarians to adopt Presidency conclusions. In describing a sustainable CAP and calling for higher environmental and climate ambition, yet endorsing business-as-usual, this confused document contrasts starkly with the dose of realism served by the European Court of Auditors report, also published yesterday.

BirdLife Europe’s Senior Head of EU Policy, Ariel Brunner, had previously described a leaked draft of today’s conclusions as a ‘Surrealist Manifesto’, citing the lack of scientific basis for the plans, its denial over the environmental crisis on Europe’s farmlands, and utterly false claims that the CAP is already delivering on the environment and climate.[1] Yesterday’s final document paints a confused picture; improved language on environmental and climate ambition is juxtaposed with continued claims that the CAP is already delivering on the environment, and that the current ineffective architecture should remain.

A recent evaluation of the CAP’s socio-economic and environmental performance called out massive distortions in current spending: 80% of direct payments go to the richest 20% of beneficiaries, while the most generous environmental payments go to the least effective environmental measures. Yet the so-called ‘2 Pillars’ of the CAP remain standing. New flexibility on ‘greening’ is to be given to Member States who have already shown they would use this to empty the concept of any meaning, as amply documented by the Court of Auditors in their December report, ‘Greening: a more complex income support scheme, not yet environmentally effective.[2]

In a worrying throwback to the 1980s, the Conclusions are courting danger by opening the door to a return to production subsidies which Member States are keen to shower on pet sectors. The inevitable ‘race to the bottom’ will further drive agricultural intensification – with terrible knock-on effects for both the environment and farmers. And the de-facto renationalization of the CAP compromises not only the entire subsidy system, but the Common Market itself.

Conversely, the body responsible for checking if the EU budget has been soundly implemented – the European Court of Auditors – paints a more realist picture of the CAP’s failings – Agricultural funding may be allocated where it is likely to be fully spent, rather than where it addresses key needs and produces results”.[3] In a scathing attack on current performance, the ECA argues that there has been insufficient progress on environmental and climate action, and that future interventions should be based on ambitious, measurable targets and EU-added value. Further, any flexibility given to Member States and simplification should not undermine effectiveness and efficiency.

Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer: “The Court of Auditors’ honest and factual report is basically saying that we are currently wasting most of the CAP money and that the tabled reform looks like more business-as-usual. They correctly ask for a radical change, with ambitious and measurable targets and payments that actually deliver on the stated objectives.”

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy, BirdLife Europe:All over Europe, farmers are going out of business and farmland biodiversity is in freefall. The Council’s debate over who should get more or less of the money-for-nothing direct payments shows that the policy is at a dead end. These conclusions offer no clear vision, in contrast with the Court of Auditor’s recommendations. We need ministers to make a clean break with the past and shift funding to supporting the necessary ecological transition and to reward farmers for actual environmental delivery.”


For further information, please contact:
Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer
BirdLife Europe & Central Asia 
+ 32 478 88 73 02

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
+32 491 90 46 53



Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.