EU Agriculture Ministers to discuss rural development

The EU farm ministers are meeting informally in Murcia (Spain) from 27 to 30 April to discuss the Presidency’s policy paper on rural development. Rural development is seen as the second pillar of the Common Agriculture Policy.

The Spanish Presidency paper, entitled “A Policy of Rural Development for an efficient European Agriculture”, states that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform will be necessary for three main reasons. These are:

  • EU enlargement;
  • budgetary problems;
  • WTO negotiations and commitments.

The Presidency states that the agricultural aspects of the accession of the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) will have considerable budgetary implications. “Clearly, the CEECs’ accession will affect the current budgetary and financial equilibria,” adds the paper.

A new global round, launched at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha from 9 to 14 November 2001, includes agricultural negotiations. The governments are expected to reach an agreement on agricultural commitments by 31 March 2003 and conclude negotiations by 1 January 2005. The Presidency underlines that the key issues for the EU will be how to build non-trade concerns into commitments, in particular the multi-purpose role and the European agriculture model, as well as commitments to reduce trade-distorting domestic aid.

The paper contains a questionnaire to the Member States on how to reform the CAP in order to take account of all these issues, as well as the need for more open, competitive markets, with greater concern given to food safety and quality, (including animal welfare), and the constraints of sustainability and conservation of the environment and the countryside.

 

In a joint letter, WWF, the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and BirdLife International urged the EU agriculture ministers to engage in a serious debate on rural development as a core issue for the mid-term review, to be undertaken from June of this year. The three NGOs propose that the EU should give rural development more money, encourage innovative approaches, integrate environmental concerns and honour their commitments.

 

A mid-term review of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is planned for 2002, but a more radical reform is necessitated by the EU's planned eastward expansion. There has been a consensus up to now between the 15 Member States that the CAP reform should be negotiated after enlargement, which is expected to take place in 2004. However, the EU's net payers fear that a radical reform of the CAP will be impossible after this date, with big beneficiaries, such as France and Poland, expected to block it.

 

A mid-term review of the CAP is foreseen for mid-2002.

The Presidency proposes that a major CAP reform dealing with these challenges, might better be carried out in the run-up to the financial perspective starting in 2007.

 

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