Informal Agriculture Council Focuses on Future CAP

Agriculture Ministers met on 19-21 September for the final Informal Agriculture Council ahead of the release of the Commission’s Communication on the future of the CAP post 2013. Gathering in la Hulpe, Belgium, the discussion was focused on particular questions relating to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform as set out in the orientation paper issued by the Presidency a week earlier.

Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos highlighted at the meeting the priorities for a future CAP as being food production, natural resource management and the need to adopt a more territorial approach, although no mention was made of the budget. However, the recently released joint position paper from France and Germany managed to cause a stir, with Poland accusing them of trying to exert undue pressure on other Member States.

Ministers agree on two pillar structure

Most Member States appeared to be in agreement that the current two pillar structure of the CAP should be retained in the future, with Pillar One continuing to be focused on the provision of direct payments to farmers. Speaking at the end of the meeting Commissioner Dacian Ciolos reiterated the need for any CAP blueprint to be ‘objective driven’ rather than budget driven. He stressed the difference in role of the two pillars, and underlined the need for greater complementarily between the two. Furthermore Mr Ciolos stressed that the first pillar should take account of the ‘socio-economic dimension of employment’ and that innovation should be imbedded into all levels of rural development policy.

Commissioner Dacian Ciolos reiterated the need for any CAP blueprint to be ‘objective driven’ rather than budget driven

The Commissioner’s comments seemed to suggest that a restructuring of the CAP may see a move of Less Favoured Area (LFA) payments into Pillar One. Further remarks from the Commissioner suggested the likelihood of a further ‘greening’ of Pillar One, whereby greater environmental conditionality would be attached to direct payments. UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman, voiced strong support for the incorporation of stronger environmental conditions to be placed on the receipt of basic area payments.

Budget remains off limits

Despite calls from certain Member States that a strong CAP needs to be suitably financed, there were no concrete discussions on the size of the future CAP budget at the meeting. Even the Franco-German paper, which was a prominent theme at the Council, did not make an outright statement on the topic, instead pushing for budgetary means ‘commensurate’ with the ambitions of the policy. More specifically Dutch Minister Gerda Verburg stressed a reluctance to make financial demands ahead of the Commission’s ‘budget review’ of EU spending, the publication of which is expected imminently.

Franco-German position causes stir

The recently published joint position paper from France and Germany provoked strong reactions from some at the Council meeting. The position, which champions a strong CAP, with a budget to match its ambitions, states that the original objectives of the CAP remain valid, but that the policy should be adapted to meet both the challenges of the ‘new global environment’. It also rejects the proposal for direct payments to be based on a flat rate per hectare across the EU-27.

In reaction to this point Poland’s Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki stated that the proposal ‘defends the interests of their farmers, but not of farmers from other Member States’. It would appear that Poland was originally in talks with the two nations to agree a three way joint position, but that France and Germany went ahead with the publication before Poland could finalise its position. In retaliation it is expected that Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia may club together to formulate a counter position.

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29 Sep 2010




The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.