Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Janusz Wojciechowski, a deputy for the European Parliament about the consequences of the capitulation of the Polish government in Brussels and about defects and the need of modification of the common agricultural policy of EU

WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - You have raised a big medial-political argument recently, stating that the government of the Civil Platform-Polish Peasant Party had sold out Polish villages in the European budget negotiations. You announced ‘a big success’ of the Polish government as ‘a big defeat’, exposing yourself to the world-wide criticism and accusation of misunderstanding the situation of the country and Europe…

JANUSZ WOJCIECHOWSKI: - Despite that, I do not withdraw myself from this evaluation. The more I analyze the new budget situation of the Polish agriculture, the less I understand the strange attitude of the Polish government. However to observe or rely, the defeat is bigger than it seemed at the beginning. Before the leave for the summit meeting in Brussels we had heard that the government wanted to gain 34.5 milliard euro for Polish farmers. The Law and Justice party was saying at that time that it is little, because this amount allows only for keeping the status quo, that is, keeping the EU help on the present level.

– The same level as in the previous budget perspective?

– The amount of 34.5milliard euro meant that farmers will receive money in the next years only in the amount in which they used to receive in the last three years. We should fight for 42 milliard euro – these extra 7 milliard euro will be necessary to offset the subsidies to the EU average.

– So the end of dreams about offsetting subsidies came together with the new budget?

– Worse. The Polish government brought only 28.5 milliard euro for agriculture, which means that not only can there be no possibility to offset subsidies to the average European level, but we have a loss by about 6 milliard euro in relation to what has been so far.

– The government is persuading us and estimates that there is no less money for agriculture at all….

– And it is doing a cynical manipulation, because it is comparing EU money from the previous budget with what is supposed to be in the present budget, not adding that the previous one was incomplete. Polish farmers received only 40 per cent of the EU average subsidy in 2007, later in the following years 10 percent more. After this frequent increase we have had about 5 milliard euro for Polish villages every year since the year 2010 – assigned for development of village areas (the so-called II pillar). In order to maintain this level, we should have 35 milliard euro for the next seven years. This amount would guarantee direct subsidies in Poland on the level of about 220 euro per hectare, while the European average is 265.

– If the amount is lower, then will the subsidies be lower than so far?

– It looks so. The fact is that every year there will be only about 4 milliard euro of the EU money for agriculture, that is, by a milliard less…

– All countries received appropriately less because of the crisis.

– That is true. In the new budget financial means for agriculture were decreased by about 18 milliard euro, from which a lot was disproportionally cut off in Poland because 4 milliard! According to the comparison of all data, Poland lost the most; among 27 EU countries about one fourth of all reductions is for the Polish agriculture.

– Wasn’t anything more taken away from those who had most subsidies, according to the idea of offsetting?

– No. German farmers got 350 euro per hectare, and only 7 per cent were taken away from the budget for agriculture. Also France lost minimally – Greece lost 1.7per cent, which had highest subsidies, over 500 euro per hectare, gained over 1 percent, Spain also gained a bit.

– Why did Poland lose so disproportionally a lot?

– Because the Polish government wanted to have a propaganda success in the form of gaining 300 milliard zlotys promised by the Civil Platform in the electoral campaign, for cohesion funds. Therefore it had to step down in negotiations in another area, that is, it had to allow for reductions of budget for the common agricultural policy. So, Polish villages were sold out in this way! The government tells lies to villages and all Poles, saying that in this budget there is more money also for the Polish agriculture. The facts are that Poland allowed for being deprived of the most.

– Did it allow? And could it not allow?

– It is not true that the prime minister Donald Tusk did not have any solutions and had to take what he was given; and be glad about it. Such comments appeared only in Poland, because the EU deputes from other countries were very surprised that Poland gave in so easily. I will say in other words: the prime minister Tusk gave easily what they were taking! This loss results only from the attitude of the Polish government.

– Why, in your opinion, did the government sell farmers so easily?

– In my opinion, the prime minister Tusk does not understand villages at all, he never raises any issues of agriculture, does not know them and he does not understand them, and he hardly expresses his opinion on them…

– Maybe it is so because he has a suitably competent ally?

– Well, the Polish Peasant Party is still referring to its agricultural roots! Therefore I am surprised by the minister Stanisław Kalembie, whom I have known for years in the best light, that he participated in this propaganda spectacle and thinks that nothing bad has happened, that he praises the negotiation success of the prime minister. Cannot he really estimate that in the conditions of the new budget an average Polish farmer (10 ha) loses at least 20 thousand zlotys in relation to the present level of financing or 40 thousand zlotys in relation to the fair level of financing, that is, to the average level of subsidies in the whole European Union?

– But why does the government state that there will be more and more EU money for agriculture than so far?

– Probably because it is comparing the previous and future subsidies, without considering domestic subsidies binding in the previous perspective, being also an essential completion of European subsidies, an integral part of amount of direct subsidies. Under the accession treaty, in the beginning Poland was given subsidies on the level of only 25 per cent of the EU average (later they were frequently increasing), but – in order to mitigate and blur too strong inequalities – the so-called old European Union agreed on a suitable domestic grant. But domestic subsidies ended in 2012 and now farmers can rely only on the EU money. So, if we want to present their situation honestly, then we must compare what they have really received so far with what they are going to receive now. And such a comparison shows that they are going to receive by 6 milliard less.

– The prime minister assures that farmers will not feel any worsening of the situation, but in contrary – villages will be developing…

– It is interesting, with what miracle? Only domestic subsidies to the so-called II pillar of the EU money will be possible – that is – for development of village areas – to which the country must add 25 per cent or more from its budget. Probably the government will somehow move some money from the fund of development of village areas, so that to increase subsidies, and in order to achieve a suitable effect of propaganda – so that farmers would not complain so much. So, there will be very little money left in the so-called II pillar, that is, for development of village areas, which means further degradation of Polish villages.

– The prime minister also consoled that wonderful and high cohesion funds will strengthen village areas in their own way…

– I believe that the prime minister made a promise. But I do not believe that it will happen so. It is going to be the same as the fulfilled promise, like all other promises of the prime minister Tusk. And besides that, it is no favor, because cohesion funds are assigned for whole Poland by nature. Only 10 per cent of them have been assigned for villages so far, although Polish villages are inhabited by 38 per cent of, if this ‘cohesion’ financing is increased from 10 to 12 percent, for example, then we will hear a big propaganda turmoil! And the discrimination of villages will still be going on…

– And the discrimination of the Polish agriculture?

– The government is defiantly telling about how wonderfully agriculture has developed in Poland, because it has reached 2 milliard euro of surplus of export over import. That is true but this expert are: cigarettes, coffee and tea…Typical fruits of the Polish land! Polish agricultural production is not so high as it could be, because conditions of competitiveness of the Polish agriculture are difficult today, and in relation to a new budget situation they are going to worsen. There are not going to be any money for development of households, for their necessary modernization. Polish villages are going to face up with a difficult fight for survival which many households are not going to cope with.

– Why are you wondering whether to vote for the budget not good for Polish villages in the European Parliament or not vote?

– In fact I have a serious dilemma. Because if the present budget had not been passed, Polish farmers might not receive 4 but 5 milliard euro every year, as a result of automatic prolonging the present level of financing. Unfortunately, it would require fights for every annual budget and all its consequences, also in the sphere of cohesion funds which are very important for Poland. Everything causes a situation that voting about the budget is a choice between a plague and cholera.

– Despite strong votes against it, can one expect that this budget will be enacted?

– I think so, anyway. Certainly, there are going to be many various discussions, but, personally, I am frustrated by the fact that long-term fight for offsetting direct subsidies was in vain, whose aim was a significant decrease of disproportion between EU countries and liquidation of discrimination. For years, step by step everything was being done in a right direction. And today Poland could be able to come close to such an offsetting if suddenly the government had not destroyed everything with its capitulation. It can be said that the Polish government detoured from the road towards offsetting chances of new EU countries.

– And doesn’t the very European Union introduce any essential changes of principles of the Common Agricultural Policy in the budget for years 2013-2020? Isn’t anything said about its liquidation?

– Nothing can be said about the liquidation. Generally speaking, there is much understanding in Europe that agriculture requires support, because there are no chances in the world competition without it. Lack of help for agriculture in European conditions means its quick liquidation, and more import of food and, certainly, the rise of prices. There is a strong trade lobby in the European Union interested in weakening of agriculture in Europe and more and more import. We must oppose the lobby definitely.

– There have been discussions for many years about the need of modification and repairing of the Common Agricultural Policy. Were any definite corrective measures defined in the budget?

– There are some novelties, but it is difficult to say that they may lead to a radical recovery. At the moment there is work over a regulation about the so-called greening of the Common Agricultural Policy, that is, making it more friendly to the environment; there are going to be requirements from farmers to leave the minimum 7 per cent of land as the so-called ecological area (ditches, bushes). Who does not do it, he will have salaries cut by 30 per cent. So – and I am afraid of it – it will make the life easier to those who buy land for speculative purposes, because they will not have to cultivate it (now, in order to get subsidies, land must be kept in a good culture). The common agricultural policy, although imperfect – just for example, through a problem of big latifundia, through paying for stopping production – still has a deep sense. Even if it lost its essential purposes, I think, that it is going to change soon. Europe – surely in the next budget perspective, after the year 2020 – will feel the need of introducing more mobilizing subsidies to agricultural production, because we will lack food…

– In Poland everyone was frightened with budget summit meeting that this is the last EU money, because it is not known whether there will be the next budget perspective.

– Everything is possible but I am certain about one thing that if the European Union exists, it must surely be the common agricultural policy because Europe should have well-developed and self-sufficient agriculture. Or the countries will decide to subsidize agriculture, but then - what do we need the European Union for?

– And now will you vote for budget, which you do not like?

– I will not make the mistake which is often made by the Polish government that before it finishes negotiations, declares support for various ideas in advance. For example, a big mistake were announcements of our government that Poland will not veto even the bad budget. I will be fighting in the European Parliament till the very end, so that it would be possible to improve this budget. And I will consider the welfare of Polish farmers, Polish villages and first of all whole Poland in voting.


"Niedziela" 11/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
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