Parliament backs Commission's CAP mid-term review
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 7 November, supporting the main principles of the Commission's proposal for the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The MEPs adopted a resolution, tabled by the Agriculture
Committee Chairman Joseph Daul (EPP-ED, France), by 315 votes in
favour, 106 against and 62 abstentions. The resolution states the
reformed CAP in the enlarged EU must protect the "European
Agricultural Model". This entails ensuring a fair income for
farmers, keeping jobs on the land, protecting consumers and
promoting health, animal welfare and environmental protection.
The Parliament supports the principle of
decoupling direct farm subsidies from production, but it wants the
link to be broken partially rather than totally as the Commission
proposed in July.
The resolution welcomes the promotion of rural
development, by shifting resources from market support to rural
development schemes ahead of enlargement. It insists however that
the differences between regions must be taken into account, and
small farms and traditional, quality production must be
The Parliament supported the Commission's
proposal for compulsory modulation by 466 votes to 30. Compulsory
modulation would oblige Member States to reduce direct aid under
certain conditions in order to shift cash from production to
measures such as environmental provisions and early retirement
schemes. The Parliament accepts capping of aid, but with
reservations, and would like to see it introduced gradually.
But the Parliament argues that the Commission's
proposals cannot be implemented under current budgetary
arrangements, given that the number of prospective new Member
States has risen since the 1999 Berlin budget agreement
The MEPs voted by 454 votes to 42 against
systematic payment of national farm aid, and called for more
support for the candidate countries before and after they join the
Parliament insists that market regulation must
continue. Farm-gate prices must not fall and there must be no cuts
to intervention prices at present. Farmers' markets must be
protected from outside competition if intervention schemes are
converted into mere safety nets. The same health and safety
standards must be applied to imports as to EU products. The
Parliament insists that the Commission's WTO negotiating mandate
must be reformulated to increase the emphasis on non-trade related
aspects of agriculture.
The Brussels European Council of 24-25 October endorsed the
agreement between the French President Jacques Chirac and the
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to freeze EU Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP) spending from 2007. The deal enabled the EU leaders to
endorse enlargement to 10 candidate countries in 2004.
The Brussels Summit deal has increased
uncertainty concerning the Commission's proposal for the CAP
mid-term review, which would redirect part of the direct payments
into rural development measures. The Franco-German agreement means
that there will be no CAP reform before 2006. However, that does
not rule out an early agreement on mid-term review measures to be
applied at a later stage.
Commissioner Franz Fischler, responsible for
agriculture, welcomed the Parliament's support for the European
model of agriculture, and agreed that non-trade concerns should be
integrated better into multilateral agreements.
The biggest EU farmers association,
COPA-COGECA, welcomed the Parliament's decision
not to accept the proposal to start CAP reform in 2004. "Together
with the European Council decisions of 25 and 26 October 2002, this
is a strong message to the Commission to focus on the preparation
of the CAP development for the years 2007-2013," said
Clare Short, Britain's international development
secretary, warned that the failure to reform the CAP would
mean the end of the Doha agreement to open up world trade to less
developed countries. "If the EU isn't willing to reform the CAP,
the EU will throw away Doha and that would be a terrible
responsibility. We must reform the common agricultural policy to
fulfil the Doha commitments," Ms Short told a British parliamentary
committee on 5 November.
Enlargement negotiations are to be concluded by the end of
2002 and the CAP mid-term review is due by spring 2003.
The CAP reform will be part of the next
multi-annual EU budget (2007-2013), to be agreed in 2006.