Author: Kai Kreuzer
Cloned meat, biofuels, biodiversity, milk prices, land grabbing, climate change, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013 – these are the key words for Martin Häusling, who since the beginning of 2009 has been working in the European Parliament for a change of direction in agricultural policy. He has been a member of the Greens since 1979 and since 1981 he has been in the “parliament” of his home community of Bad Zwesten near Kassel. He won his spurs for the European Parliament as a member of the federal government in Hessen from 2003 to 2008. Together with the Frenchman José Bové and the Scot Alyn Smith, Häusling represents the agricultural sector in the parliamentary party of the Greens, who are linked to the European Free Alliance. His main activities take place not lonly in meetings of the parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg but above all events across the whole of Germany. (Picture from left: José Bové, Alyn Smith and Martin Häusling in the European Parliament)
JAN 4QL – that’s what the room in the European Parliament building is called where today committee meetings are held. Before all 736 EU parliamentarians vote on proposals put forward by the parties, the issues are debated in sometimes long drawn-out meetings, compromises are discussed and then voted on. In the case of important motions, 300 amendments are not uncommon. What is striking is how politely the elected representatives of the people deal with each other: “I would like to congratulate the chairman…..” or “I would like to express my gratitude for the positive preparatory work…” is the way you often hear people addressing each other. “The tone here is very courteous, although when it comes to substance we’re often far apart,” is how Häusling sums up his parliamentary work. Discussions with other parties and their representatives are very important, so that they have the advantage when aspects of policy are being decided. This has meant that the Greens have succeeded in getting their way on quite a lot of issues.
Six of the 90 MEPs on the agricultural committee are members of the Greens/European Free Alliance. Full members José Bové, Martin Häusling and Alyn Smith, substitute members are Margrete Auken, Bas Eickhout and Jill Evans. The MEPs sit in the first two rows, with staff and observers behind them (see picture above). The room seats around 500 people. The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development meets 25 times a year and plenary sessions attended all parliamentarians are held twelve times a year. The meetings of the agricultural committee are broadcast on the internet and can still be accessed after several weeks. “I spend a good half of my time in Brussels and a sixth in Strasbourg,” says Häusling. A lot of time is taken up with travelling to Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg or Berlin in order to take part in events. (Picture on right: The proportion of organics in the canteens of the EU Parliamnent is very modest – just a few yogurts and juices. Every now and then, there is an organic week with an organic menu)
The 56 members of the Greens/EFA have their offices on the seventh and eighth floors of the EU Parliament building. Martin Häusling and his two assistents have two 10 m² rooms at their disposal. There’s not much space because the rooms are fitted out with a sofa and a shower as standard. “It’s like being in a spaceship,” comments one of his assistents staff. “In the building we’ve got a supermarket, three banks, then there’s a hairdresser, a fitness centre, a cleaner’s and several bars and canteens.” You could survive there for quite a time, but they’re not allowed to spend the night in the building. The EU Parliament building is light, modern and built with transparency in mind – so you can look through to the courtyards within the building as well as look at the world outside. From the upper storeys you can enjoy a lovely view (picture) of the old town and the other EU buildings (Pictures: Modernity and transparency are the order of the day)
The Rumanian Commissioner with responsibility for agriculture and rural development, Dacian Ciolos – the "Minister of Agriculture" for the EU, as it were - has ambitious plans that are being discussed in Brussels under the heading of the greening of agricultural policy. It is doubtful, however, whether he will be successful in view of his own administration and representatives of the governments in Paris and Berlin, “Ciolos wants basically the same as we do,” comments Häusling. “In October, we’ll find out what really is achievable, when a draft bill is on the table.” (Picture on right: Martin Häusling in discussion with his assistent Corinna Hartmann)
For half his life, the fifty-year-old Häusling has been preoccupied with politics and has been running the 75 ha farm – the Kellerwaldhof - that he inherited from his parents 40 km south-west of Kassel. He was one of the first peope in Hessen to operate a biogas digester. In 1988 Häusling, who trained as an agricultural technician, converted to organic and became a member of the Bioland association. Since 1999, the farm has been producing various sorts of cheese. Because of his heavy work load, one of his two sons has taken over the day-to-day running of the farm, with his wife Marianne looking after the cheese making. They sell their produce in their attractive farm shop. Since his job puts him under considerable time pressure, Martin Häusling sees his family and farm mainly at the weekends and in the holidays. On Monday mornings at 5 o’clock he’s at the station waiting for the train to Brussels, where he arrives around 10 o’clock. (Picture on left: With his suitcase on wheels – always on the go)
If you want to be successful in politics, you must have allies. “We like working with “good” lobbyists.” Among these Häusling includes Friends of the Earth, the IFOAM EU Group, that also represents the umbrella organization of the German organic food industry BÖLW, and Greenpeace. He also has good relations with several agricultural organizations in the federal states of Germany. Häusling is often in demand to speak there about agricultural policy, and also in the local branches of the green party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. In Häusling’s opinion, it is important to be willing to disuss issues with all sides, seek common ways forward, think about compromise and find solutions. Another important partner is the German dairy farmers' association (Bundesverband Deutscher Milchviehhalter) which Häusling invited to an event at the beginning of July 2011 on the subject of cloned meat. At the European level he collaborates with the European Milk Board. (Picture on right: Martin Häusling in the inner courtyard of the EU Parliament building)
When asked about the successes of green agricultural policy, Häusling’s office replies that they succeeded in the first two years in focusing the debate about the future of agriculture on the key challenges, namely how to achieve fair incomes for farmers at a time of sever price fluctuation, how to maintain and improve biodiversity within the agricultural system, how to achieve agricultural practices that save water and don’t damage the soil and how to reduce the protein deficit in the EU in the long term, thus drastically reducing the import of fodder. Green expertise was called for when the committee had to report on the issues of protein deficit and fair incomes for farmers.
(Picture: Voting display. Below are some of the 46 interpreter for 23 languages. At the front on the left of the montage, the voting box in front of each MP that allows them to vote yes or no or to abstain. It takes seconds for the result of a vote to appear on the display)