Vote what down?

DOMINIQUE-HOMMEL FRANCE © EUROPEAN UNION 2011 – EP

Many topics were discussed in last week’s plenary session of the European Parliament, but one of its most important ones was the CAP. Or the Common Agricultural Policy. The discussion was even awarded its own trending hashtag: #VoteThisCAPdown. Sounds fancy of course. But if you’re asking yourself what this hashtag even means, and why it became trending, don’t worry. I’m going to do my best to get you up to speed.

The Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP if you want to sound like an insider, is one of the EU’s most important policies. It started in 1962 as a way to inject money evenly into the European agricultural sector in the form of subsidies and other programs. In the meantime, the CAP has undergone many changes but has always remained one of the biggest expenses of the European budget.

With a new Commission in place and the public debate being dominated by climate change, it seems now is the right time to want to paint that agricultural policy a little greener. Especially if the Commission is also working on something called the Green Deal that is supposed to reduce the net emission of greenhouse gases to zero by the year 2050.

So what does the Commission do? It proposes a new and improved CAP. Unfortunately for them though, some groups in the European Parliament, especially the Greens and the GUE/NGL group, don’t think it goes far enough and want to strengthen the proposal by linking it to the goals set in the Green Deal. Several amendments were put forward but all of them were rejected by a majority of parliament.

This is where the hashtag comes in. If the proposal wasn’t going to be changed to their liking this week, the accepting of the proposal should just be rejected. NGO’s, MEP’s, even Greta Thunberg started tweeting to #VoteThisCAPdown. And many people joined them. It didn’t take long before a group of German MEPs from the S&D joined them and stated they would reject the reform all together followed by a couple of MEP’s from the Renew Europe group too.

The question now remains on whether or not they succeeded in their goal. And unfortunately for them, they didn’t. A majority of the European Parliament voted in favour of the tabled proposal. But, yes there’s a but, the proposal didn’t altogether fail to become a little greener. The three institutions, the Parliament, Commission and Council, still need to negotiate the details of it and the parliament has been able to slip some points in, strengthening their position at the negotiating table.

Environmentally-friendly practices, for example, should be supported more and instead of mostly supporting the biggest farms, it should start to focus more on small and young business. Also, the European Parliament wants higher sanctions when someone repeatedly infringes rules on the environment or animal welfare. The goals of the Green Deal are not linked to any of this, but it’s definitely greener than its predecessor.

What eventually will come from this proposal is still unclear. The current agricultural policy rules will end by December 31st. If the EU hasn’t agreed on a new CAP by then, a transitional set of rules will remain in place until then.

In the meantime a new hashtag is going around: #WithdrawThisCAP