Mariann Fischer Boel to Retire as Agriculture Commissioner

Mariann Fischer Boel will retire as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, when the current Commission’s mandate expires. Between 2004 and 2009, the Commissioner has overseen the implementation of the CAP reforms stemming from the 2003 Mid-Term Review, as well as the 2008 ‘Health Check’.

From an environmental perspective, whilst the latter can be considered a step in the right direction, it was generally viewed as a missed opportunity. With no clear successor in sight, the race to succeed her will be watched with interest in the coming months - the prize being to guide the EU through negotiations on the future of the CAP post-2013.

Mariann Fischer Boel’s legacy

After months of speculation, Mariann Fischer Boel has finally announced that she will stand down from her position as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development when the current Commission’s mandate expires. The decision, which was not entirely unexpected, was announced by the Commissioner on 13 September at the informal meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Växjö, Sweden. The main reason given for her decision relates to the demanding nature of the position, with the 66 year old Commissioner reportedly stating that ‘if I were 10 years younger I wouldn’t have left’.

Perhaps her main legacy, though, is the CAP ‘Health Check’ which she oversaw in 2008.

To coincide with her decision, DG Agri has published a glossy report entitled ‘Agricultural and rural policy under Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’. The report outlines the main policy developments which the Commissioner has overseen during her term in office (2004-2009). These include the implementation of measures agreed under the 2003 Mid-Term Review of the CAP, such as the introduction of decoupled direct payments, the system of cross compliance, and the principle of shifting funds from direct payments to rural development schemes via compulsory modulation. Perhaps her main legacy, though, is the CAP ‘Health Check’ which she oversaw in 2008.

Prior to announcing her decision, Fischer Boel had received the public support of Commission President José Manuel Barroso and her native Danish Government to stand for a second term. It seems likely, therefore, that she would have been reappointed to the position when the next Commission College is nominated, despite her opposition to various proposals recently put forward by Member States to address the so called ‘dairy crisis’.

According to IEEP’s own analysis of the Health Check, ‘the final agreement [was] a step in the right direction but has been regarded by many as a missed opportunity to prepare the CAP for the considerable environmental challenges that lie ahead.’

However, there has also been criticism of her record as Agriculture Commissioner. For example, on 10 June the Green 10 (a coalition of 10 major environmental NGOs operating at EU level) published a report rating the Commissioner’s record on agriculture as meriting only 4/10 compared to an average for the Commission as a whole of 4.4/10. The report concludes that: ‘overall, she failed to address the pressing environmental problems (biodiversity loss, climate change, soil and water crisis) that undermine the long-term productivity of farmland ecosystems’.

According to IEEP’s own analysis of the Health Check, ‘the final agreement [was] a step in the right direction but has been regarded by many as a missed opportunity to prepare the CAP for the considerable environmental challenges that lie ahead.’

Schedule for Mariann Fischer Boel’s successor

One factor which will influence this timetable [to appoint a new Agriculture Commissioner] is the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which will take place on 2 October.

The mandate of the current Commission is due to expire on 1 November, although in practice it is likely to be extended, perhaps until 1 January 2010. One factor which will influence this timetable is the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which will take place on 2 October. Currently the result is thought to be too close to call. If a ‘no’ vote is delivered, then a new Commission could, in principle, be appointed as early as November, although such a tight schedule seems unlikely in practice. If there is a ‘yes’ vote, then this would delay the nomination process, due to the introduction of changes in the EU policy making process embedded in the Treaty.

As regards Mariann Fischer Boel’s successor, only one potential candidate has been formally mentioned thus far - former Romanian Agriculture Minister Dacian Ciolos. However, conventional wisdom in Brussels suggests that such a nomination would be unlikely on the basis that Romania has an usually high percentage of the workforce involved in the agricultural sector (a potential conflict of interest) as well as question marks over the use of pre-accession SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) expenditure. The field to succeed Mariann Fischer Boel and guide the EU through negotiations on the future of the CAP post-2013, therefore, remains wide open at present.

References

  1. Agra Facts (13/09/09) Mariann Fischer Boel to retire at the end of the Commission mandate
  2. Agra Facts (02/09/09) Next Commission College: EP vote on Barroso on Sept 16? Romania wants AGRI job
  3. Agra Europe (13/09/09) Fischer Boel to quit as Farm Commissioner
  4. DG Agri (14/09/09) Agricultural and rural policy under Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel
  5. Green 10 (10/06/09) Off target: European Commission 2004-2009 environmental progress report and lesson for the next Commission
  6. CAP2020 (02/12/08) IEEP CAP Health Check Review: Overview of Key Outcomes
  7. BBC News (04/09/09) Irish treaty vote 'will be tight'

2 comments posted

  • Samuel Féret Groupe PAC 2013 October 1st, 2009

    Thanks for this note. However I do not endorse the conclusion regarding the Dacian Ciolos profile, when it’s written :

    “conventional wisdom in Brussels suggests that such a nomination would be unlikely on the basis that Romania has an usually high percentage of the workforce involved in the agricultural sector (a potential conflict of interest) as well as question marks over the use of pre-accession SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) expenditure.

    I remember in 2004, MEP’s had also outlined a potential conflict of interest because of farm business of her husband. Finally, she was appointed as commissionner for agriculture and rural development !

  • Yves Machard de Gramont aucune October 16th, 2013

    D’accord à 100%. L’élevage de cochons danois fonctionne de mieux en mieux!

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PUBLICATION DATE

29 Sep 2009

AUTHOR

IEEP

FURTHER INFORMATION

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.