The debate was launched by EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş to gather stakeholder and citizens' views before the Commission tables policy guidelines in November (EurActiv 13/04/10).
A synthesis report of the more than 5,000 contributions received from the general public, stakeholder organisations and think-tanks will be presented and debated during the two-day event.
Call for continued direct support, green incentives
A preliminary assessment of the consultation results reveals a focus on three themes: ensuring food security, making agriculture environmentally-friendly and securing the prosperity of rural areas.
The consultation also witnessed widespread calls for direct support to farmers to be continued in order to help them deliver food security. More equal distribution of CAP money and extra incentives to help farmers deliver on environmental objectives were also highlighted as major topics of concern.
Parliament rejects farm budget cuts
The first contribution to the debate came from the European Parliament when it adopted a resolution earlier this month, setting out its views on how the EU's farm policy should be reshaped after 2013.
The report, which was drawn up by Scottish MEP George Lyon (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), stresses that CAP funds must be "at least maintained during the next financial period" in order to face new challenges, such as climate change.
Some 40% of the EU's €120 billion annual budget currently goes to the CAP.
The Parliament also stressed that direct payments to farmers should be fully funded from the EU budget to avoid any co-financing by governments that could erode fair competition in the EU single market.
Tabled well ahead of the publication in November of the Commission's agricultural reform plans, the Parliament's report – which does not impose legal obligations on member states – seeks to shape the debate ahead of the EU's upcoming multi-annual budget discussions (EurActiv 14/07/10).
Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, no EU agricultural reform plans or legislation can be approved without Parliament's agreement. However, the lawmakers have less say on the EU's long-term budget and the share of it that goes to the CAP, as they can only approve or reject the final deal.
"We have the power [...] to press the nuclear button and refuse to accept the budget, which means that the 2013 budget rolls over again until we get an agreement. But that's a pretty big step for the Parliament to take," Lyon said in an interview with Reuters last week, hinting at how serious the EU assembly is about maintaining the CAP budget.
However, he acknowledged that the budget is unlikely to escape the general austerity drive being pushed by governments around Europe.
Whether or not to slash the future CAP budget to free up money for other priorities is one of the most contentious issues of the EU's upcoming farm reform and a major source of tension between CAP supporters like France and critics such as the UK and the Netherlands.