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Czechs, Poles, Slovaks to join Baltic farmers in rally to demand fair direct payments

Staff Writer |
Czech, Polish and Slovak farmers will join Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian farmers in a rally in Brussels today to call for fair direct payments, LETA learned from the Latvian Council for Cooperation of Agriculturalist Organizations (LOSP).

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The first part of the rally will take place from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., but later the Baltic farmers will be joined by farmers from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia and representatives of the European Dairy Association.

LOSP general director Guntis Vilnitis said that Latvian farmers will insist that in the EU's new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2021-2027 the Baltic states would reach the average level of direct area payments in the EU.

In the current situation, Latvia in 2020 will reach only 68% of the average level in the EU, even though the decision has been made by the European Council that the countries will not receive below 75% of the average level or EUR 196 per hectare. According to the European Commission’s proposal, Latvia would receive 77% of the average level in the EU in 2021-2027.

The rally will take place at the same day as a meeting of the European Union heads of state and government, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, which will focus on the EU budget.

"Farmers in the Baltics have always supported fair direct payments in different EU member countries. Unfortunately, the EU's new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2021-2027 offers no substantial reforms, and Baltic farmers will continue to receive only about 75 percent of the EU average payment.

"Taking into account that all EU member countries compete on a single market and that requirements on agricultural production are identical, it is unacceptable that Baltic farmers, for already a third planning period, are worse off than farmers in the other EU members.

"It is for this reason that we, together with our Lithuanian and Estonian colleagues, will participate in the protest in Brussels," said Farmers Parliament's deputy chairwoman Maira Dzelzkaleja-Burmistre earlier.

Edgars Treibergs, chairman of the Latvian Agricultural Organization Cooperation Council, agreed that Latvian farmers were facing tougher competition because of the direct payments, and that Latvia would not support reducing the CAP financing as suggested by the Commission.

"If our opinion is discounted by officials and bureaucrats, we have to be in Brussels and express our opinion differently. We must not stand by - if we do we will give other EU countries the green light to decide the future of our agriculture," stressed Treibergs.

According to Farmers' Parliament, harmonization of direct payments promised by the Commission will only happen on paper, as payments for the original EU members will be reduced only a few percent - while increased just a little for the Baltic countries.

At the end of the current planning period, farmers in Latvia will be receiving 75% of the EU average payment amount.

By the end of the next period the figure will be 77%.

"This is a negligible increase over a period of seven years. If the payments are "harmonized" at the same pace, we will only see equal direct payments sometime around 2100, and neither we, nor our children and, very likely, our grandchildren will have the opportunity to run our farms on the same conditions as farmers in "old Europe"," Latvian farmers point out.

Participating in the protest will be 160 representatives from Lithuania, 35 from Latvia and 10 from Estonia, Farmers' Parliament told LETA. After the rally, the protesters will meet with Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis.

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