The working group was established on 2 July, a day before newly-appointed French Farm Minister Bruno Le Maire met with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to explain France's stance on the future reform.
Le Maire said Barroso had shared his views on the "strategic importance" of agriculture to the EU and on guaranteeing European food security.
"It is absolutely necessary to regulate production," Le Maire told the press after the meeting, insisting that the agricultural sector is far too strategic to be left to market forces alone.
"More regulation" will be France's guiding line in negotiations on farm reform, he added. But regulation does not necessarily mean quotas, he added, a reference to ongoing protests over milk prices.
"Our main political objective must be to guarantee stable and decent revenue for farmers," he went on, noting that French farmers had lost 20% of their income since 2008. Such price volatility and decreases are "not economically viable" and "farmers cannot live with such instability," he stressed.
Secondly, Le Maire said that price formation needs to be made more transparent, suggesting putting in place a European observatory to monitor price trends across the whole supply chain.
Thirdly, the French farm minister said "innovation and investment in the agri-food sector should be put at the heart of the [EU's] Lisbon agenda" for growth and jobs, which is set to be reviewed next spring. If Europe wants to have a globally competitive agri-food sector, then it needs to give industry the means to achieve this aim, Le Maire added.
Others invited to join
Franco-German cooperation on CAP reform will be very tight, Le Maire said, indicating that he would add a German official to his cabinet to prepare the work. Similarly, a French official will be sent to Berlin, he said.
The working group is open for others to join, he added, announcing a tour of EU capitals that will start in London before going to Madrid, Rome, Bucharest and Warsaw. Paris and Berlin expect to table their first guiding principles for CAP reform "in the coming months," he added.
The working group represents an indication that key EU policies are increasingly being shaped outside the EU's official institutions. Paris took a similar initiative on GMOs last year (EurActiv 05/06/08 and 21/10/08).
A Commission spokesman, however, downplayed the issue. "It's great that everybody is interested in the future of the CAP. Any contribution, including that of the two major producers, is welcome to feed in the reflection process," he said, adding that no final decisions would be taken in such informal settings.
The Commission is due to table its first ideas on CAP reform in September 2010.
Commission asked to reconsider abolition of milk quotas
Le Maire and his German counterpart Ilse Aigner have also joined forces to urge the Commission to provide urgent aid to dairy farmers hit by falling milk prices. Recent crisis measures have proven inefficient, with prices continuing to fall, and there is no sign of this trend changing, they wrote in a joint letter addressed to EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.
The ministers also suggested that the Commission should consider freezing the increase in milk quotas foreseen for 2010 and reinstate stockpiling of dairy products as a way of better controlling the amounts reaching the market and hence better controlling prices (EurActiv 24/03/09).
Dairy farmers from across Europe are strongly protesting against falling income and have asked the bloc to reconsider moves to end the quota system that had so far guaranteed stable prices (EurActiv 19/06/09).
Later this month (22 July), the Commission is expected to provide an analysis of why milk prices have dropped so quickly, judge the effectiveness of implemented intervention measures and present new ones to help dairy farmers.