EU's Common Agricultural Policy must be continued, expanded - PM

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the key elements of Polish national politics, and should not only be continued, but expanded, PM Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday at the European Agriculture Forum in Jasionka in south-eastern Poland.

Morawiecki stressed that it was important for all EU members to be treated equally, and pointed out that the western European countries had more time to develop their agriculture.

"It is important for all countries to be treated alike and non-discriminatively. After all, the countries of Western Europe had a much earlier chance to join the European Economic Community (EEC) and then the EU, and develop their agricultural architecture in many areas," the PM said.

Morawiecki stated that Poland's agriculture has been changing rapidly since the country joined the EU, and stressed that Poland wanted CAP to be continued and expanded, as it was a key element in Polish national politics.

"We have stated quite clearly that CAP is one of the key elements of Polish state politics, and this is why we want it to be reinforced rather than weakened," Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki pointed out that agriculture needed stability mechanisms, and stressed that Poland expected such support from the EU. He especially emphasised the need for such mechanisms, owing to agriculture's dependence on weather.

Referring to Poland's food industry, Morawiecki said Poland placed a lot of significance on the quality of its food, as it was one of its main export commodities. In this context, he reported that last year's food exports from Poland amounted to over EUR 29 billion.

"This is the apple of our eye, hence, we are tremendously serious about all the mistakes and abuse (...), the quality of Polish food must be our hallmark," he declared.

Asked about Poland's troubles with African Swine Fever (ASF), Morawiecki said it was a problem even the world's biggest economies have been unable to resolve, and regretted that no ASF vaccine had yet been found. He added that the EU should aid Poland in its battle with the disease, as it was "a defence front for the entire EU."

"Poland is the defence front for the entire EU. We should receive EU funding for combating ASF, because it will have an influence on our effectiveness, whether or not the disease spreads to Germany, France and other countries in Western Europe," the PM said.

Commenting on Poland's energy policy, Morawiecki said one of the priorities was dispersed energy supply, which was why Poland supported small-scale energy production. In this context he mentioned plans for an energy cluster to aid local energy producers.

Asked about ways to raise the share of Polish food on supermarket shelves, Morawiecki mentioned plans to introduce regulations hindering large chains in the sale of products under their own trademark, which made it difficult for domestic producers to profit on their goods. He also suggested for Polish farmers to ally themselves in co-operatives, as this would give them more negotiating power in dealings with buyers.

Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the farmer-supporting Polish People's Party (PSL), observed that Brexit should not result in CAP cuts, but in the policy's expansion, as this will ensure higher food safety.

"If ensuring security is the fundament of the EU, then this also means food safety. Therefore, there should be more investment in the Common Agricultural Policy, there must be a change in the way the subsidies function," Kosiniak-Kamysz said.

Kosiniak-Kamysz also pointed to the need of EU aid for Poland in connection with Brussels' sanctions on Russia, which hindered Polish exports to the country.

"More and more Russian coal is burnt in Poland, but there are no Polish apples on Russian tables," he said.

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, who accompanied Morawiecki and Kosiniak-Kamysz to the meeting, said he had put forth proposals for new laws enabling more flexibility in agricultural funding. Hogan said that if his ideas went through, the EU members would have a much easier path to funding adapted to their local needs.

Hogan remarked that the EU has channelled EUR 12 billion for agricultural aid to Poland, including EUR 2.5 billion to fund small farmers. He added that the EC has also designated EUR 1.5 billion in compensation for the EU's embargo on food sales to Russia.

Attending the forum, among other officials, are agriculture ministry administrators from Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Spain.