CAP 2013 – Reforming the CAP is the Parliament’s greatest challenge since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty

CAP 2013 – Reforming the CAP is the Parliament’s greatest challenge since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty

CAP 2013 – Reforming the CAP is the Parliament’s greatest challenge since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty

In the first of a series of exclusive articles for Endeavour Public Affairs about the rural economy and the 2013 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy, Paolo De Castro MEP writes that what is needed from a reformed CAP is simplification, flexibility, and progressivity.  With this in mind, he argues that the Commission’s original proposals do not satisfy his committee’s expectations, and actually raise many concerns.

Paolo De Castro MEP is an Italian Socialist MEP and is Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

The European Parliament is facing the greatest challenge since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty: reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  For the first time the Parliament has the same decision making powers as the European Council of Ministers in this area.  Reforming the CAP is a huge responsibility and must be done in a way which results in a CAP that is more effective, more sustainable, and containing a greater element of fairness.

MEPs remain committed to meeting the deadline of the 01 January 2014 for the entry into force of the reformed CAP.  Despite this, the proposal presented by the European Commission in October 2011 is yet to reach a general consensus in either the Member States or in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament.

The CAP represents the most important environmental, economical, and territorial policy of the European Union and the reform must comply with some main goals, like a fairer distribution of resources among Member States and farmers, fighting price volatility, and environmental and economic sustainability.

Changes in recent years highlight the most urgent problems that European agricultural policy should tackle: the problem of the imbalance between development and available resources.  This can be seen particularly when it comes to energy, the environment, and food scarcity.  Food scarcity, which contributed to the creation of the CAP in 1957, is particularly important as it is directly linked to population growth.  The global demand for food keeps exceeding our ability to produce it; this is a serious area of concern.

The CAP should ensure high production standards, promote food security, and at the same time respect the environment and conservation.  It should create the conditions that allow farmers to produce more and pollute less.  In other words the new agricultural policy should on the one hand take into account both economic and environmental sustainability and on the other hand, it should provide farmers with the tools they need to manage risk.

With this in mind, the Commission’s proposal does not satisfy our expectations, and actually raises many concerns on a variety of issues including ‘greening’ measures, the definition of an active farmer, and the effectiveness of their proposals to manage market volatility.  Their proposals would also increase the bureaucratic burden and costs for our farmers.

Before the summer break, the Agriculture Committee, which I have the honour to chair, presented more than 7,000 amendments to the Commission proposal, denoting a common desire to play an active role in the negotiations along with the European Council.  In particular, what the European Parliament would like to see after 2013 are more effective and simplified environmental measures to make our agricultural sector greener and more productive.  We would like a more flexible policy with less administration and bureaucracy.  Moreover, reform of the CAP should contemplate the introduction of more robust tools for risk management covering all sectors and an improvement in the functioning of the supply chain.

Beside the critical points of the proposal, approval of CAP reform will depend on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014 – 2020.  At present the CAP represents more than 40 per cent of the EU budget.  At the beginning of November the Agricultural Committee decided to postpone our vote on CAP reform, originally foreseen for the end of November, and instead to vote at the end of January 2013 as we wanted to wait for the results of the EU long term budget negotiations.  Further cuts to future CAP spending would significantly undermine the reform.  A resources cut would not conform with the committees position, the bureaucratic burden or the strictness of the proposal presented by the Commission.  What we need is simplification, flexibility and progressivity.

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