The number of birds and insects is going down across Europe. With the problem predicted to get worse in the next decade, the EU is being criticised by environmental groups, who claim they are in a “state of denial” over the extent of the problem. Two recent studies have highlighted the decline in French farmland birds.
This is a worrying trend, and a pattern that can be seen on repeat all over Europe. “The whole system is in a state of denial,” said Ariel Brunner, head of policy at Birdlife Europe. “Most agriculture ministers across Europe are just pushing for business as usual. The message is, keep the subsidies flowing.”
In response to these concerns, EU agriculture ministers are now pushing for the introduction of a new common agricultural policy (CAP) which would help to protect the environment while continuing to provide safe crops to the public. It would also protect farmers subsidies, which current take up 38% of the EU budget.
At the moment, 80% of the subsidies go to just 20% of famers via “basic payments”. Because the current payments are based on land area, larger farms are able to invest more money in more efficient ways to produce food. Environmentalists want to see more money being invested in green measures that would protect wildlife.
A much smaller percentage of the farming subsidies goes towards “greening” measures, however, the EU has suggested that the funding won’t increase in the next budget – and may even be cut further. Birdlife Europe said the much of the funding for “greening” is going towards “fake environmental spending” and that member states were increasingly introducing loopholes to avoid wildlife friendly policies.
This has been heavily criticised by the EU. In a recent report, auditors stated that: “Member states use the flexibility in greening rules to limit the burden on farmers and themselves, rather than to maximise the expected environmental and climate benefit.” Harriet Bradley, agriculture policy officer at Birdlife Europe, also commented that “It’s a massive scandal but the farm lobby is so powerful it hasn’t penetrated public consciousness.”
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