Principles for a future CAP for the EU-27 outlined at the agricultural ministers meeting in Chambord
As governments from all EU Member States but the UK gathered on Friday 16 September in Bratislava to discuss the future of the European Union, a similar agriculture-focused gathering was held in Chambord, France, on 2 September 2016. The aim of the meeting, the initiative of Stéphane Le Foll, the French Minister of Agriculture and co-chaired by German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt, was to think about the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in an EU post-Brexit.
Some 21 Ministers of Agriculture and Members of the European Parliament attended the meeting (all except HR, FI, LV, NL, PT and ES). Three key questions were discussed: a) how can the CAP contribute to a European project in a globalised world; b) what are the European issues that lead us to have a CAP for a resilient, competitive & sustainable agriculture; and b) what is the role of this policy in a Europe of 27.
The meeting concluded with a statement of four core principles which Ministers felt should frame future debates on the CAP.
The first principle was a reiteration of the need to have a common agricultural policy, recalling its place at the centre of the European project since its early days. This basic principle - coined as "no CAP-exit" - was deemed important at a time when various developments threaten the unity of the EU.
The second principle was the need to simplify the CAP - yet with a higher degree of flexibility for implementation by Member States.
As a third principle, Ministers acknowledged the variety of global and societal challenges the agricultural sector and the CAP have had to face in recent years, from food related issues (quality/availability) to environmental challenges and climate change, to competitiveness and social issues. In light of these challenges they concluded that the future CAP should integrate better with other policies, e.g. energy policy, where agriculture has a clear role to play.
Finally, they emphasised that the CAP should be redesigned to better equip Member States and farmers with appropriate tools and financial means to manage risks. This should include mechanisms to compensate farmers for the negative impacts to protect them from repeated and varied crises – whether economic, health or environmental/climate related. Le Foll made reference for instance to the episodes of floods in France and Germany this year which had severe impacts on crop yields and went so far as to propose a third CAP Pillar to focus on providing support to farmers during periods of market volatility as a result of these sorts of crises. Farmer representatives at the event also highlighted the need for new crisis management tools. Ministers proposed to discuss in Bratislava a solidarity insurance scheme whereby those risks are more fairly shared by all businesses along the supply chain.
Among the topics the Ministers did not agree on however, was the voluntary reduction of supply. Countries such as Denmark and Germany were opposed to any long term market regulation, although Poland claimed that the end of the milk quotas in particular had been a “big mistake”.
This informal meeting in Chambord was exceptional both in form and content and Le Foll concluded that it demonstrated the level of concern of EU governments over the fate of the agricultural sector in a year marked by political, economic and environmental crises. It remains to be seen what comes of the principles agreed at Chambord, and indeed whether these sorts of informal gatherings will continue, running parallel to the formal Agricultural Council monthly meetings.
: AgraFacts No64-2016
20 Sep 2016