Spain reflects back on 30 years of CAP highs and lows

Spain has, according to its agriculture ministry, benefitted more than any other country from the CAP. [Shutterstock]

Representatives from the agricultural sector, food industry and the Spanish government have gathered to discuss the pros and cons of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as Spain celebrates 30 years of EU membership. EURACTIV’s partner EFEAgro reports.

At a meeting in Madrid organised by EURACTIV and EFEAgro, co-financed by the European Commission, Spain’s Secretary-General for Agriculture Carlos Cabanas kicked proceedings off by claiming that “no other country had tapped into funding made available by the CAP like Spain has”.

Cabanas also reflected on the negotiation process that Spain went through three decades ago in order to join an agricultural policy that had already been operational for 24 years.

CAP: Still a work in progress

In June 2013, politicians approved the first major reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in a decade, following months of haggling over quotas, subsidies and measures to improve environmental accountability.

The debate’s participants, moderated by CAP expert Tomás García-Azcárate, agreed that the policy has gone through its own smooth and rough patches during this time, but were optimistic that further consolidation over the next 30 years will allow the bloc’s agricultural sector to ride out increased market volatility and globalisation.

President of Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias Ángel Villafranca lauded the fact that Spain is a “net recipient of funds” that have boosted the sector, but criticised his country for not having “influenced matters more tangibly” in order to promote international competitiveness.

The international relations director of the young farmers association (ASAJA), Ignacio López, said that Spain could currently “not imagine itself outside of the CAP” after three decades of progress with a policy to which farmers have readily adapted.

Antonio Romé of agricultural association COAG said that the policy had been “extremely positive” in helping implement modernisation and professionalisation of the sector, but that it still lacks the tools needed to face up to increasing market liberalisation.

UPA chief Lorenzo Ramos said that the CAP facilitates “a stable supply of healthy and affordable food”, but also criticised it for the large number of reforms it has gone through and the shortcomings of linking production to aid.

MEPs call for a complete rethink of the CAP

A group of MEPs have called on the EU to adopt a new agricultural strategy that puts agriculture at the heart of European society and responds to the strategic challenges of the 21st century. EURACTIV France reports.

Paloma Sánchez, of the Spanish federation of the food and drink industry (FIAB), said that the policy is “crucial to the survival of rural areas” and added that policymakers must now seize the chance to promote objectives related to animal welfare and the natural environment.

The CAP is the EU’s largest and costliest programme, accounting for €4 in every €10 spent by the EU. Some 1,100 Commission employees in 11 agricultural directorates are involved in administering the programme.

National, regional and local authorities all play a role in administering the programme that the Commission estimates has around 8 million beneficiaries – out of an EU population of more than 500 million.

Despite its monolithic political and fiscal importance, agriculture is a small part of Europe’s economy: it accounts for 1.7% of GDP and 4.6% of employment, OECD figures show. The EU and the United States compete for being the world’s largest agricultural exporters, which EU trade reaching €120 billion in 2013.

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