On 20 March 2018 the Ecco Conference Centre in Tønder hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Hogan. Many participants came from both Denmark and Germany, and the Commissioner was joined on stage by four partners from Germany and Denmark. Namely, Robert Habeck, Minister for Energy, Agriculture, Environment, Nature and Digitalisation for Slesvig-Holsten, Erling Bonnesen, Member of the Danish Parliament and Chairman for Agriculture, Good and Envrionment, Martin Merrild, Chairman of Danish Agriculture and Food Council and Joachim Rukwied, President of COPA and Bauernverband Germany.
The Dialogue engaged with many farmers from Germany and Denmark. As such, many of the topics discussed surrounded the new Common Agricultural Policy, competitiveness, and other issues such as the intense level of bureaucracy in farming and how to better engage young people in the farming sector.
A German farmer asked the Commissioner not to allow each country – nor each of the German Länder – to set their own rules and over-implement them. The consequential administrative burden on farmers was then discussed, and Commissioner Hogan referred to the 100 simplifications he has made in the last three years.
The moderator asked the audience to stand up of they felt optimistic about the future for agriculture in the region – most stood up. She then asked them to respond on administrative burden for farmers – is it too high, ok, too low? Everyone stood up for ‘too high’.
On competitiveness, a young Danish farmer also stated that the Danish Government tends to over-implement EU regulations for farmers, so they get even more requirements than other farmers which leads to problems in terms of competitiveness. The Commissioner replied that with the new implementation models, farmers have the possibility to change the rules and influence them to have less bureaucracy.
Another young farmer expressed concern at the ageing population in the farming sector and asked what the EU can do to help young people engage in farming. If more young people were farmers it would be easier to work with the environment and climate.
Other citizens were concerned about how we can talk about a common agricultural policy when conditions are so different in different member states and how can we turn the difference between farmers to a strength and not a weakness.
The event in Tønder was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.