Commission defends budget proposals for agriculture and cohesion at General Affairs Council
The two main policies funded by the EU budget – agriculture and regional policy – were the main topics of debate at the General Affairs Council on Tuesday. Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič joined his fellow Commissioners Janusz Lewandowski and Johannes Hahn in Luxembourg to discuss the key proposals with ministers.
The discussion on agriculture and cohesion (or regional) policy funding is part of the ongoing debate between national governments and the Commission on the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), the five-year programme for funding the EU's policies from 2014.
V-P Šefčovič underlined the Commission's proposals in these two policy areas, which together account for the lion's share of the EU budget. In particular he stressed the Commission's commitment to linking cohesion spending to performance and results, the decision to impose macroeconomic conditionalities on the allocation of cohesion funds and the capping of allocations, bringing greater coherence between cohesion policy and the Europe 2020 strategy designed to stimulate growth.
He also expressed concern that the so-called negotiating box agreed by the Danish EU Presidency as the main items for discussion in these policy areas did not include a number of key Commission proposals, notably the setting of minimum allocations of the European Social Fund for the different categories of regions and the proposal to maintain food aid for the most deprived.
As far as agriculture is concerned, V-P Šefčovič stressed the Commission's commitment to overhauling the Common Agricultural Policy, making it greener, reducing direct payments to farmers and making it easier to transfer funds between the two 'pillars' of agriculture and rural development, all of which he hoped would be endorsed by ministers.