Lithuanian farmers expect more funding as EU leaders continue budget talks

  • 2020-07-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuanian farmers hope that EU leaders will agree in the decisive round of budget talks to increase support for them so as to bring direct payments closer to the bloc's average. 

Diplomats expect European Council President Charles Michel to put forward a new proposal for the EU's next budget and economic recovery fund as EU leaders will reconvene for a fourth consecutive day of talks in Brussels later on Monday.  

On Saturday, Lithuania was offered 125 million euros in additional rural development funding as partial compensation for lower direct payments to farmers, but the Lithuanian delegation, led by President Gitanas Nauseda, said they would seek more.

Arunas Svitojus, the chairman of the Lithuanian Chamber of Agriculture, said on Monday the 125-million-euro compensation proposal did not meet Lithuanian farmers' expectations.

"When we get billions, those millions are a very small piece," he told BNS. "It makes 20 million euros per year. That's a miserable amount." 

Direct payments to Baltic farmers are now the lowest in the EU, at around 170 euros per hectare, well below the bloc's average of over 250 euros.

Under the European Commission's proposals unveiled earlier this year, subsidies to Lithuanian farmers would be gradually raised starting 2022 until they reach 78 percent of the EU average in 2027.

Nauseda said at the start of the talks that he would seek these payments to be increased to 196 euros in 2021.  

Saturday's proposal provided for additional compensation to a total of nine EU member countries, including Latvia and Estonia, according to a document obtained by BNS.

Diplomatic sources said the Lithuanian president and the Latvian and Estonian prime ministers had agreed on a "united position" on direct payments to farmers in a separate meeting on Sunday and presented it to Michel.

Diplomats expect EU leaders to achieve a breakthrough later on Monday or in the early hours of Tuesday. 

"The dynamics are such that we are working like in a (papal) conclave – until white smoke emerges," a diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.