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European Parliament Looks at the CAP; and EU Trade Strategy

Last month, FarmPolicy highlighted recent policy proposals pertaining to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

And earlier this month, we noted that potential changes in farm policy in the U.S., given the probability of the Farm Bill intersecting with the supercommittee, was moving at a much more rapid pace than in the EU.

More recently, an update posted yesterday at EUractive Online reported that, “Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş faced a barrage of criticism yesterday (7 November) over plans to overhaul the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) before a rare gathering of national farm ministers and members of the European Parliament.

 “The European Commission announced its blueprint for the EU’s 2014-2020 budget six months ago, which largely leaves current funding for the CAP untouched at €53 billion per year.

 “Putting a legislative blueprint on the table in September, The Commission then proposed changes that include setting aside more land for conservation, streamlining policies and taking steps to equalise payments to farmers in newer member states.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “But Cioloş said that some of the proposals were misinterpreted on many fronts and defended the reforms to one of the EU’s signature programmes. He said the changes were aimed at improving productivity while ensuring sustainable agricultural growth.”

And, a news release from the European Parliament yesterday indicated that, “How can EU farm policy be reshaped to make it less bureaucratic, and help farmers to produce high-quality foods at competitive prices even in times of crisis? Legislative reform proposals were debated Monday at a unique meeting of EP Agriculture Committee MEPs, Member States’ farm ministers and the European Commission.

“The debate focused on direct support for farmers, market regulation, rural development and the financial implications of the reform proposals. This was the first time in the EU’s history that legislative proposals for farm policy reform were discussed in the one room by the two co-deciding bodies – the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.”

The release added that, “In his opening speech, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek urged participants to act responsibly in reforming ‘one of the EU’s oldest policies’, accounting for 37% of its budget for 2014-2020.

“MEPs and agriculture ministers ‘will have to find solutions that strike a balance among all farmers in 27 Member States, big and small farms, central and remote areas’ to shape a new policy, able to respond to new challenges and be accepted by EU citizens, said Mr Buzek. Strong and internationally-competitive agriculture is ‘one of elements that will get us out of the current crisis,’ he said.”

Meanwhile, Caroline Stocks reported yesterday at Farmers Weekly Online that, “Plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy should not be agreed until the European Union has found its way out of its financial crisis and approved its next round of budgets, MEPs have claimed.

“Speaking at a debate on shaping EU farm policy and reducing agricultural bureaucracy, Euro MPs expressed concerns over agreeing how much farmers should be paid while Europe’s finances were in turmoil.”

On a separate EU issue regarding trade, Joshua Chaffin reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “In July, when the European Union cut the ribbon on a free-trade agreement with South Korea after years of sometimes frustrating negotiations, it was a moment for celebration.

Karel De Gucht, EU trade commissioner, hailed the agreement as the Union’s most ambitious ever and a ‘game-changer for our trade relations with Asia’”.

The FT article noted that, “Its sense of accomplishment was only enhanced by the fact that Brussels had beaten Washington to the punch in closing the deal.

“However, it is too early to say whether the EU-South Korea deal will live up to expectations.

“But one thing is clear: the bilateral deal reflects the shape of things to come for the EU in an era in which the Doha round of talks, held under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation, which aims to deliver a global trade deal, appears bogged down, if not moribund.”

Yesterday’s FT article explained that, “But their actions in recent years may be more revealing. Ever since 2006, when Peter Mandelson, the EU’s trade commissioner at the time, published his Global Europe strategy, the EU has abandoned a moratorium on bilateral deals and begun negotiating them alongside Doha.

“‘It was a big shift,’ says Carsten Dannöhl, an international affairs adviser at BusinessEurope, the continent’s largest employers’ group. ‘The Doha round is not really progressing at the moment, so the importance of bilateral free-trade agreements has become very clear.’

“Since joining the commission in 2009, Mr De Gucht, a former Belgian foreign minister, has thrown his energy into furthering that strategy, criss-crossing the globe in an effort to push forward a number of bilateral trade negotiations.”

Keith Good