CAP Reform Towards 2020: Franco-Spanish Talks

Compared to the two years of active debates and discussions which preceded the publication of the legislative proposals for CAP reform post 2014, we seem now to be in a quieter period of reflection. This is partly caused by the suggestion that the real negotiations cannot progress in detail until there is greater clarity about the budget the CAP has to work with. In turn this is dependent on political decision on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework, and no one expects progress on that until well after the French Presidential elections (second round on 6 May) and maybe not settled until spring 2013.

In the meantime bilateral discussions are taking place as the Member States develop their formal opinions on the numerous dimensions of the reform proposals. Following the 6 February meeting between French and German Ministers of agriculture, the French Minister Bruno Le Maire also held discussions with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Arias Cañete (15 February) out of which has emerged a franco-spanish statement. It differs little in content from the franco-german statement, although its tone is more strident.

Unsurprisingly both Ministers stressed the importance of sustainable, competitive and productive EU agriculture and for a commensurate CAP budget, as proposed by the Commission, to stabilise the CAP. The statement is critical of two of the three main themes of the reform proposals, the redistribution of direct payments and the greening of Pillar 1. It is a restatement of a traditional protectionist stance, and continues to emphasise the CAP’s role in the regulation of agricultural markets.

The Ministers emphasised the increased volatility in agricultural markets and hence the need for new approaches for their regulation. They stoutly defend the continuation of the sugar quotas to 2020, and the work of the high-level group on wine and the need to extend planting rights beyond 2015. On the redistribution of direct payments between Member States, there is clear nervousness. They suggest this must take account of the diversity of national economic conditions, the balance between the two CAP pillars, and must be limited in volume. They also criticise as ‘unacceptable’ the proposed starting level and pace of moving to flat-rate area-based payments from the historic reference for Pillar 1 payments. Furthermore, they are particularly critical of the proposed 30% greening and the 7% ecological focus areas, arguing that the percentages set are far too high. This element of the proposals is described as being out of touch with the challenges faced by EU agriculture.

It is becoming evident that the Commission’s proposals have few strong supporters, but it is equally clear is that neither has there emerged a strong alternative narrative for this reform. This suggests the outcome may turn out to be a watered-down version of the proposals which have smoothed away the roughest corners irritating the key protagonists.

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PUBLICATION DATE

21 Feb 2012


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