Swedish Presidency Outlines Priorities for Agriculture
Sweden will take over the six month Presidency of the EU Council from the Czech Republic on 1 July. The main priorities for the Swedish Presidency on agriculture relate to ‘food and climate – the global challenges’, and ‘sound animal husbandry and healthy animals’. A third priority, unrelated to agriculture, is 'sustainable fisheries' linked to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) [a]. Details of these priorities have been set out on the Presidency's recently launched website which includes a detailed work programme. The Presidency intends to further debate on these issues at Council meetings and through a programme of scheduled meetings and conferences.
the Swedish government has made it clear in public that it is in favour of reducing the overall budget of the CAP, whilst increasing the emphasis on rural development expenditure
Whilst reform of the CAP is not explicitly referred to in the work programme, the Swedish government has made it clear in public that it is in favour of reducing the overall budget of the CAP, whilst increasing the emphasis on rural development expenditure targeted at the provision of public goods. Consequently, informal discussions on the future of the CAP look set to continue, building on the work of the Czech Presidency, which was unable to reach unanimous agreement on conclusions presented to the Member States at the Agriculture Council last week. In addition, the Council is also due to discuss proposals on CAP Simplification put forward by Denmark, with the support of 12 other Member States in November.
Climate change is one of the overarching priorities of the Swedish Presidency, related to the ongoing UN negotiations on a new international agreement on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Linked to this, agriculture and climate change will be the theme for the informal meeting of agriculture ministers to be held on 13 – 15 September in Växjö. Discussions at this meeting, hosted by Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson, are expected to focus on adaptation measures.
Two major conferences on agriculture have been organised during the Presidency. The first, entitled ‘Rural Areas Shaping the Future’ will take place in Uppsala on 28 - 29 October. The conference will focus on ways in which a ‘modern countryside’ can contribute to sustainable development through increased production of sustainable bioenergy and more effective energy use. On 23 - 24 November a conference on ‘Climate Smart Food’ will be held in Lund to discuss the impact of the entire food chain on climate. The conference is intended to provide a forum for actors from across the EU food chain, to share good practice and discuss ways of minimising the impacts of food production on climate change.
In addition, the need to ensure global food security, in the context of climate change and estimates that the world’s population will double by 2050, is highlighted on the Presidency website. The Swedish Presidency will represent the EU at a high level meeting on this theme convened by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN in November.
Also of interest in the food and climate debate is the recent publication of guidelines for 'environmentally effective food choices' complied by the Swedish National Food Administration and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. The document states that 'Meat – beef, lamb, pork and chicken – is the foodstuff with the greatest impact on the environment [including contribution to climate change]' and urges consumers to eat less meat overall, whilst preferentially consuming livestock products from grass based, local or organic systems.
The proposals are the first of their kind to be published by a national authority and have been submitted to the EU to gauge feedback from other Member States and interested parties. It is notable, however, that dairy production is barely mentioned within the text despite being associated with similar environmental impacts to meat production (see, for example, a recent report on more sustainable livestock production). This may reflect political sensitivity towards the sector given the on-going adverse EU market conditions which resulted in accompanying measures to the phasing out of milk quotas being included amongst the Health Check 'new challenges' (see CAP Health Check Review: Dairy).
The Swedish Presidency has also prioritised the issue of animal welfare and the need to ensure high standards, suggesting it is ‘key…to consumer confidence in food production, to public health, and to [livestock] producers’ financial situation’ (due to the outbreak of diseases). A conference intended to support efforts to strengthen animal welfare standards will be held on 8 – 9 October in Uppsala. The Presidency website also makes reference to the EU strategy for animal health for the period 2007-2013, which is likely to be discussed at Agriculture and Fisheries Council meetings with ‘constructive participation’ from Ministers expected.
Informal Discussions on Future of the CAP Set to Continue
‘the share of the common agricultural policy in the whole EU budget has to be decreased’
Sweden has been vocal in recent discussions on the future of the CAP and it is one of a number of reform-minded Member States for whom the ‘public goods’ debate carries a lot of traction. Agriculture Minister Erlandsson has stated that ‘the share of the common agricultural policy in the whole EU budget has to be decreased’. Such a reduction would be achieved through significant cuts to Pillar 1, something which is unlikely to be supported by Member States for whom the retention of the CAP’s income and market support functions are an important objective. During the Presidency, Sweden intends to ‘concentrate on [promoting rural development through] the second pillar’ of the CAP, whilst also working towards ‘a fair distribution of cash between countries’, the main objective of the New Member States (NMS). Thus, informal discussions look set to build on progress made under the Czech and French Presidencies. A formal Commission Communication outlining proposals for the future of the CAP is expected in the summer of 2010.
Simplification of the CAP
In addition, following the adoption of Council Conclusions on CAP simplification at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in May this year, a document outlining 39 proposals for simplification of the CAP is expected to be discussed in detail at the November Council meeting. Prior to this, a meeting of the heads of national paying agencies will take place on 5 – 7 October in Visby to discuss possibilities for simplifying the administration of CAP payments.
Whilst many of the Danish proposals are purely administrative, the following ones could have significant policy implications if introduced and therefore warrant closer attention:
- The possibility for Member States to use ‘self assurance/certification/standards which would be controlled by an independent third party in order to reduce public control’.
- ‘To significantly reduce and if possible abolish’ Statutory Management Requirements (SMR) controls in cases where ‘there have been no, or only very few infringements of these requirements in recent years’.
- The requirement for the area of permanent pasture to not fall below 5-10 per cent of 2003 levels ‘should be reviewed and potentially abolished’ on the basis that ‘the development so far has shown no big changes’.
- In view of high error rates associated with the inspection of agri-environment schemes ‘more emphasis on the ultimate outcome/ impact achieved would merit consideration’.
- ‘The current complex system of [rural development evaluation] indicators needs to be reviewed and simplified’.
The issue of CAP simplification, framed by a Commission Communication, was last discussed at the Agriculture Council in May. Commission’s overarching objective is to reduce administrative burdens arising from implementation of the CAP by 25 per cent by 2012 - estimated to be equivalent to a saving of around €1.4 billion for farmers and national administrations.
[a] On a related theme, a new website, fishsubsidy.org, was launched last week. The website is intended to contribute to the debate on more transparent reform of EU's Common Fisheries Policy by publishing data relating to payments and recipients of payments.
29 Jun 2009
The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.