Germany slams Timmermans over farm reform

Germany’s Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner on Tuesday directly accused the EU’s Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans of damaging the credibility of the European Commission through his role in negotiations on the next Common Agricultural Policy.

The Commission has been pushing countries to adopt a greener stance on the EU’s giant farm policy, but farm ministers pushed back hard arguing too much green ambition too quickly could bankrupt their farmers. Countries’ refusal to meet the higher green demands coming from Timmermans and the European Parliament last month led to a break-up in talks.

“All ministers, regardless of which party or country they come from, have the impression that Commissioner Timmermans’ behavior is jeopardising confidence in the Commission in its function as an honest broker,” she wrote in a statement released Tuesday by the German agriculture ministry after two days of talks in Lisbon aiming to get a deal back on track.

An EU official retorted: “It’s hard to broker any agreement when one of the parties is backpedaling on their own position. Lashing out against the Commission, who is putting actual compromises on the table, seems a bit irrelevant at that stage. But we’re happy to discuss it over lunch.”

Germany’s powerful farm chief Klöckner brokered a common CAP position between all EU countries last October but she and her fellow ministers ended up offering Parliament a deal that was actually less green in some crucial aspects during the negotiations in May, tanking the talks.

Klöckner wrote: “We agree that it would be good if the Commission respected the Council and Parliament in their role as legislators. Her strongly-worded statement did not name-check EU farm chief Janusz Wojciechowski, despite the fact the Pole was the only EU commissioner present for the off-record ministerial talks in Portugal this week.

The German statement said Commission officials have “repeatedly burdened” the final phase of the talks with new legislative proposals which lack a legal basis. MEPs have also accused the Council of the same last-minute tactics.

Timmermans finds himself between a rock and a hard place on agricultural policy, having already been heavily criticized by climate activists such as Greta Thunberg for not being strong enough on driving through a greener transition for the heavily-emitting sector.

POLITICO has reported he gave Portugal’s farming minister Maria do Céu Antunes a “10-minute scolding” behind closed doors about the EU Council’s low green ambition as the last round of negotiations collapsed.

Klöckner said EU countries are all ready to reach an agreement with MEPs through the Portuguese presidency during a so-called super trilogue next week. Her statement suggested that the Commission’s negotiating strategy was possibly the only factor that could now block a deal on the CAP by the end of the month.

Her Spanish counterpart Luis Planas has also been vocal in accusing the Commission of disrupting the negotiations by overly favoring the European Parliament’s negotiating position.

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