France and Germany Unite Forces in the CAP Reform Discussions
French and German Agriculture Ministers, Bruno Le Maire and Ilse Aigner, met on 6 February at the 14th Franco-German Council of Ministers to discuss the Commission’s proposals for the future CAP. The outcome is a two-page declaration highlighting those areas of the policy reform on which they hold a common view.
Increased flexibility for Member States to take decisions on how to implement the proposals for a new approach to Direct Payments under Pillar 1 is a key theme of the declaration as is the need for any decisions to take account of the current economic situation facing Europe.
In light of this, they both agree on the need to redistribute direct payments more equitably between Member States, but emphasise unsurprisingly that any redistribution must be carried out progressively so as not to upset the ‘internal balance of the EU’, thereby rejecting the calls from the new Member States for greater redistribution than the 30% closing of the gap between current payments and 90% of the EU27 average that is currently proposed by the Commission.
In terms of the move towards allocating payments on a regional average area basis within Member States, they stress the wide degree of economic diversity that exists between different types of farming within Member States and reinforce the need for Member States to be allowed to factor this in to any redistribution. They would also like to see greater flexibility applied to other Pillar 1 measures determining eligibility for payments within Areas with Natural Constraints, for young and small farmers, active farmers and the proposals for voluntary coupled support for sectors that are facing difficulties or are particularly important for economic and/or social and/or environmental reasons.
In terms of greening Pillar 1, they support the opportunity that this offers to encourage sustainability within the agricultural sector EU-wide, but express doubts on the feasibility and workability of the proposals given the current economic climate. They call for improvements to be made to the proposals to provide more detail on the greening measures, to improve the visibility and environmental importance of grassland management, to support ‘new methods’ of sustainable agriculture and to increase efforts to simplify the CAP by making conditionality more streamlined and reducing administrative red-tape and cost. In the same vein, they note that they would like to see the proposed market management instruments made simpler and better adapted for immediate reaction to crises.
Although this rhetoric reveals nothing new and is much in keeping with the views expressed by both Le Maire and Aigner in previous Council meetings, what is new is the decision from two of the most significant players in the CAP reform debate to issue a formal joint statement at this stage in the negotiations. In doing so they have made it very clear that they intend to stand for greater subsidiarity in implementing the reforms and against any major redistribution of budget allocations between Member States and hence for maintaining the status quo as far as this is feasible in relation to the bulk of payments to farmers.
15 Feb 2012
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