December 1, 2017
That is what the newspaper Le Monde asserts, without any question mark, on the front page of its 28 November edition, just a few hours before Member States gave a positive opinion.
According to Le Monde, the scandal would have been the Commission forcing glyphosate through without a qualified majority from the Appeal Committee. “This option is politically delicate, as it would mean over-riding not only the necessary majority but the resolution of the European Parliament as well as the European Citizen’s Initiative, the latter demanding a ban on glyphosate with more than one million signatures in the space of a few months.”
The Parliament has no real power over the adoption of the regulation on glyphosate, its resolution being non-binding. The same goes for the Citizen’s Initiative, as respectable as it may be. Even if the current trend of governing by opinion poll is as strong as it is deplorable, the only thing that counts is respecting the procedures for the adoption of EU laws and regulations. This was the case for glyphosate; therefore, there is no scandal at all. But nevertheless, two issues arise.
The agency problem needs to solved urgently
The ‘Battle of Glyphosate’ claimed two victims: the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Both concluded that glyphosate was non-carcinogenic, then were accused of simply copying and pasting dozens of pages supplied by Monsanto, without anyone coming forward to defend them – in particular the two responsible Commissioners: Mr Andriukaitis (for EFSA) and Ms Bienkowska (for ECHA).
The decision of the top Commission hierarchy to hang the agencies out to dry has greatly complicated the situation. This ambiguity must be brought to an end as soon as possible. There are two choices: either the Commission trusts and supports its agencies, or it does not. If the second, then it must either reform or abolish them. There is no other alternative, nor can the status quo continue.
The farming world must re-think its lobbying strategy
Having been unanimously elected Secretary-General of COPA-COGECA in 1994 under a programme of reform and having left it in 1996 without success, I must admit that things have not improved in the past 20 years.
The problem is not the people. The problem is that the organisation, the logistics and the strategy are not well-adapted to a European Union now more complex, technical, opaque, diverse and contested than ever. Various activists have managed to harness the legitimate concerns of EU citizens to advance their goal of deconstructing the European Union.
The classical lobbying that trade associations are used to has become obsolete and thus ineffective. With trilogues now systematic and secondary legislation multiplying all the time, decision-making has shifted to the lower levels. The growing complexity of files demands perfect technical understanding combined with an ability to communicate instructively via social networks. Before it was standardised, but today’s lobbying requires case-by-case action based on new, multidisciplinary skills.
Farm leaders are only too aware that every sectorial organisation, even every national member, acts independently, dispersing their forces and resources. Let us never forget that modern lobbying requires devoting all your forces to one priority.
If the farming world does not start seriously re-thinking its channels of influence and start understanding that lobbying is about project-by-project management, the bad news will continue to pile up: new budgetary reductions, disastrous free trade agreements and systematic bans on any innovative genetic or plant protection techniques.