EU responses

EUROPEAN COMMISSION: ADDITIONAL MEASURES TO SUPPORT THE AGRI-FOOD SECTOR

On 16 April the European Commission adopted two new measures to help the agri-food sector by improving farmers’ cashflow, and reducing the number of physical on-the-spot checks.

To increase cashflow, the Commission has adopted higher advances of payments for farmers for direct payments (from 50% to 70%) and rural development payments (from 75% to 85%).

The second measure reduces the number of checks that EU countries have to carry out to ensure that eligibility conditions are met. To minimise physical contact, the overall number of checks to be carried out is reduced. The derogation also provides flexibilities in terms of timing of the checks to allow Member States the most efficient use of resources while respecting the confinement rules.

Member States will be able to use alternative sources of information to replace the traditional on-farm visits. The Commission is encouraging the use of new technologies, for example extending the use of satellite images to check the agricultural activity on the field, or geo-tagged photos to prove that investments have taken place.

NEW EU ROADMAP TOWARDS LIFTING CONTAINMENT MEASURES

On 15 April, the EU published a Joint European Roadmap listing concrete recommendations Member States should consider when planning to lift COVID-19 containment measures.

Specifically in relation to internal border controls, the Commission has been working with Member States to limit the impact of the reintroduction of internal border controls on the functioning of the internal market and on free movement. The Commission has already proposed more flexibility in the application of existing rules on airlines’ use of slots [Regulation (EU) 2020/459], and adopted guidelines on green lanes [C(2020) 1897] and air cargo operations to facilitate free movement of goods in the EU [C(2020) 2010]. The Roadmap states that travel restrictions and border controls currently applied should be lifted once the border regions’ health situation converges sufficiently, with social distancing rules widely and responsibly applied. The gradual reopening of borders should give priority to cross-border and seasonal workers and should avoid any discrimination against EU mobile workers.

In the transition phase, efforts to maintain an unobstructed flow of goods and to secure supply chains should be reinforced. Restrictions on travel should first be eased between areas with comparably low reported circulation of the virus. The Commission will put forward more detailed guidance on how to progressively restore transport services, connectivity and free movement as swiftly as the health situation allows.