RIGA - Farmers from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are set to stage a protest in Brussels on Thursday when a petition against, as they see it, unfair direct payments from the European Union is handed in to the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, reports Nozare.lv. The petition has been signed by Latvian farmers. The protest will be held in the morning near the European Council building, Sabine Puke from the Association of Latvian Agricultural Cooperatives said.
“Together with our colleagues from Lithuania and Estonia, several dozen people altogether, we will gather at Schuman Square for a peaceful protest. We are aware of the current problems in Europe, yet we will insist on our right to receive larger payments. If we are not heard this time, much wider protests will be organized in Riga and Brussels in the fall,” said Puke.
The petition has been signed by 18,500 farmers altogether. It was to be presented to Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) and Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma during their meeting with farmers’ representatives on June 26, to then be handed in to Brussels officials on June 28.
“At the meeting, we will agree on a joint tactic for the protection of Latvia’s interests at the European Council meeting this week. Besides the European Parliament and European Commission, the petition will also be submitted to the European Council, because these institutions are the ones to decide what the Common Agricultural Policy will be after 2014,” said Puke.
Latvia wants Brussels to introduce fair direct payments to farmers, stipulating that the lowest payments must constitute at least 80 percent of the average amount of the EU direct payments. At the moment, Latvian farmers receive the smallest direct payments in the EU, 63 lats (90 euros) per hectare or less, while the average figure in Europe is 266 euros per hectare.
We want it now
Estonia wants European Union agricultural support to be equalized more quickly, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated on June 26 at the meeting of the European Union foreign and European affairs in Luxembourg, where the next EU financial framework (2014-2020) was discussed.
Paet said that in budget negotiations Estonia is supporting the joint proposal of the Baltic States in which they ask that direct support be equalized more quickly, especially for the sake of those countries whose direct support is far below the European Union average, like the Baltic States. “This would ensure better grounds for competitiveness in a common market and make it possible to help out the countries with the smallest support,” Paet said.
According to Foreign Minister Paet, unequal agricultural support distort the European Union’s common internal market. “Particularly during the current complicated time, it is essential that we abolish such distortions, as this will also help with economic growth,” he said. Paet added that agricultural support for some member states is many times bigger than those for others, and this situation is not justified.
Two other important topics for Estonia are the option of a higher cap for the percentage of GDP that can be received in cohesion policy funds, and the eligibility of non-refunded VAT. “We would like for the 2.5 percent cap for cohesion policy funds to not apply to those countries that have been the most deeply affected by the economic crisis. Namely the countries whose economic growth from 2008-2010 was below the EU average,” the Estonian foreign minister explained.
“When it comes to eligibility of non-refunded VAT, we support continuing with the same system from the previous period, in which VAT is an eligible expense for the public sector as well,” Paet added. These proposals have already been added to the negotiating box by the current EU presidency Denmark.
Paet said that Estonia supports the European Commission’s proposal regarding the general size of the budget, and feels it is essential that the new financial framework focus on ensuring economic growth, increasing competitiveness, and creating jobs.