The first exchange of views on the post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) last week showed that the European Parliament may well use its new powers to block any significant budget cuts for the policy.
If EU farm policy is to address important new demands, including food security, biodiversity and water management, then "it is a paradox" that the Commission plans a significant reduction in resources, said the Italian chair of the Parliament's agriculture committee, Paolo De Castro (S&D), speaking at a workshop on the CAP's future after 2013 on 10 November.
His comments follow the leak to the press late last month of a Commission draft paper hinting at substantial cuts to the CAP's share in the bloc's long-term budget (EurActiv 27/10/09).
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel denied ever having backed the draft communication, and referred to it as "a non-paper which should have been thrown in the bin". In any case, "we can't decide on the budget before a debate on the CAP," she said.
The commissioner "firmly believes" that the EU needs a strong CAP to face up to future farming challenges, such as climate change, land management, rural development and security of food supply.
Meanwhile, Fischer Boel underlined that it is "up to the next Commission" to present its views on CAP budget reform.
The agricultural committee's vice-chair, French MEP José Bové (Greens/EFA), said the CAP intervention instruments needed revamping, not dismantling. The Commission's leaked draft suggested that direct support for farmers could be made subject to the delivery of "public goods" such as biodiversity or sustainable farming practices, instead of making the payments as mere income support.
MEPs are expected to prepare their position on the post-2013 CAP before next summer.