The European Union’s drive towards becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050 and its efforts to revive rural areas needs to be accompanied by some flexibility in state-aid rules for agriculture and rural businesses, members of the European Committee of the Regions said on 3 February.
Members of the CoR’s Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) supported recommendations contained in an opinion on the Future EU State aid rules for agriculture, rural areas and forestry, drafted by Guido Milana (IT/PES), member of Olevano Romano Municipal. The opinion addresses proposals by the European Commission to align state-aid rules with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the European Green Deal.
Rapporteur Guido Milana (IT/PES) said: "We will not be able to implement the European Green Deal without a paradigm shift for rural areas and agriculture. That is why state aid must be made available to smaller farms to help them transform and meet today's challenges. This would help growth, act as a stimulus to reverse depopulation trends in rural areas, and be an extraordinary response for these parts of Europe, without affecting the equilibrium of the EU's Single Market."
Mr Milana’s opinion will submitted for a vote of approval by all members of the European Committee of the Regions in April 2022.
Local leaders in the NAT commission voiced particular support for rule adjustments that would promote implementation of the European Green Deal. The opinion also calls for the green transition to be accompanied by a simplification of public aid, in particular, by the establishment of simpler procedures for local and regional authorities to manage crisis situations and in supporting agricultural holdings, especially micro-enterprises. They also suggested adjusting the definition of SMEs in the agricultural sector.
Agricultural holdings will be required to implement a range of strategies contained in the Green Deal package, in particular the Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy. The European Committee of the Regions has already given its views on the two strategies, in the opinions on Bio-diverse cities and regions beyond 2020 at the UN CBD COP 15 and in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and From farm to fork – the local and regional dimension.
The members of the NAT commission also approved two other draft opinions:
· Health Emergency Response Authority drafted by Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES)
· Joan Calabuig Rull (ES/PES) - New EU Forest Strategy for 2030
In May 2021, the European Commission has published a Staff Working Document summarising the results of an evaluation of the State aid rules for the agriculture and forestry sectors and for rural areas. The evaluation concludes that some targeted adjustments may be necessary to align the current rules with the current EU priorities, the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the European Green Deal. The Commission has conducted an evaluation of the existing rules applicable to the agricultural and forestry sectors and is also performing an evaluation of the rules applicable to the fishery sector. The input gathered has been reflected in the proposals under consultation. Period of consultation: from 11.01.2022 to 13.03.2022. The adoption of the revised rules is planned for the end of 2022.
· Public consultation on revised State aid rules for the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas