Australia welcomes the European Union's Domestic Support Notification for marketing year 2015/16. Notably, from 2014/15 to 2015/16 payment measures under "blue box" (Table DS:3) increased from EUR 2,878.8 million (G/AG/N/EU/43) to EUR 4,331.1 million, which represents an increase of 50%.
a. Could the European Union please provide details on the reasons that led to this significant increase in expenditure?
b. What steps has the EU taken to ensure production in supported commodities is limited and are in fact "blue box"?
Budget year 2016 is the first year in which the 2013 CAP reform is fully reflected in the payment execution of direct payments. The increase in Blue Box spending from 2015 to 2016 budget year is entirely due to the introduction of Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS) in the 2013 CAP reform. Voluntary Coupled Support replaced the old "Article 68" coupled support.
Voluntary Coupled Support can only be granted to sectors or regions where specific types of farming or agricultural sectors that are particular important for economic, social or environmental reasons undergo certain difficulties. Further, Voluntary Coupled Support take the form of an annual payment granted within defined quantitative limits and based on fixed areas and yields or on a fixed number of animals. The sector is determined in Chapter 1 of title IV of Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013.
In its approval of these programmes the Commission has ensured that the programme implemented by member States respects these criteria, which are themselves fulfil the requirements in Article 6(5) of the Agreement on Agriculture.