The reformed CAP can make "a major contribution" to the EU's new strategy for sustainable economic growth, dubbed 'Europe 2020', said Cioloş, addressing the Parliament's agriculture committee yesterday (12 April).
Referring to the CAP as "the engine of growth in the countryside," Cioloş said the EU's future farm policy would play an essential role in encouraging sustainable natural resource use in agriculture.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has also called for a "profound greening" of EU farm policy to make the CAP deliver sustainable agricultural practices (EurActiv 17/03/10).
Farming is an essential source of employment in rural areas, which often underpins other rural economic activity, Cioloş stressed.
The CAP is also an essential engine of green and intelligent growth, Cioloş said, arguing that innovation in farming can contribute to fighting climate change and finding ways of "producing more with less".
Future CAP after 2013
During the exchange of views, British MEP George Lyon (ALDE) presented a draft own initiative report on the future of the CAP after 2013. In a nutshell, it calls for a fairer, greener and more sustainable EU farm policy.
Commenting on Lyon's report, Cioloş warned against moving too fast in identifying different mechanisms for the future CAP, instead calling for more time to reflect on "what we want to achieve".
One of the most contentious issues in the upcoming reform is whether or not to cut the CAP budget, which currently represents around 40% of total EU spending. The budget is a major source of tension between CAP supporters like France and critics such as the UK and the Netherlands.
Regarding direct aid payments, Cioloş said it is still too early to discuss payment levels or the speed of the transition from the current system to the new one. "We need to first agree on what we want to achieve with the payments and only then decide on their distribution," he stressed.
Nevertheless, he said that they should at least contribute to providing a revenue safety net for farmers and delivering public goods for the environment as well as maintaining jobs.
Instead of presenting a specific vision for the new CAP himself, Commissioner Cioloş identified a series of questions that must be addressed in the reform process.
Arguing that the CAP "suffers from a lack of exchange with European society," Cioloş announced the launch of a public debate on the EU's future farm policy.
"I want the reactions and thoughts not only of farmers, but also of environmental protection associations, consumers and animal welfare groups," he said, insisting that the CAP is not just a matter for experts, but "a policy for all Europeans".
Society as a whole benefits from EU farm policy as it produces food, manages land use and protects the environment, he explained.
Cioloş stressed that "this is not a consultation" as there is no official Commission communication to accompany the process. Nor would there be a discussion of the CAP budget or its specific instruments, he said, instead calling for a debate on Europeans' general expectations for the bloc's future farm policy.
Speaking to the press ahead of the launch, Cioloş stressed the importance of debating the substance and objectives of the CAP before the form and mechanisms to implement them.
"We need to overcome the technical partition of the CAP to make it accessible to the broader public," the commissioner added. While a recent Eurobarometer survey showed that some 90% of Europeans support the CAP, only 30% said that they really know what the policy consists of. The upcoming reform must therefore make sure that "the objectives and measures we set up are accessible to a large public," the commissioner said.
The online debate is open until June and will contribute to the Commission's work on the CAP's future.
Meanwhile, Cioloş listed the main challenges facing the future CAP: providing food security, protecting soil and natural resources, boosting economic growth in rural areas and fighting climate change.