The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) remains one of the pillars of the European Union construction. It aims at ensuring food sovereignty and security for citizens and is one of the leverages for economic dynamism in rural areas. Two questions are raised:
As far as the appropriations are concerned, the UK withdrawal, which will probably be effective from 1st January 2021 onwards, will raise some concerns as it means that a gross contribution of around 14 billion of euros will miss to the annual budget.
However, Europe has to respond to new expectations. Globalisation has resulted in new threats and challenges, which EU Member States cannot take on alone at national level.
Some progress has to be undertaken in the fields of Defence and Security, fight against globalised terrorism, climate protection, massive migrations, digital economy and cyber-attacks.
It is obvious that a budget limited to 1% of the EU GDP would lead to radical choices. The funds granted to the CAP would inevitably be lowered. We are waiting for the release of the European Commission’s proposal on the next MFF on 2 May. During his speech on the State of the Union in September, President Jean-Claude Juncker mentioned the number of 1.2%. This would barely offset the loss of the British contribution. For its part, the European Parliament just voted an initiative report calling for 1.3% and the maintenance of the same appropriations’ level for the CAP. We already know that some Member States are keen to make an effort and others want to stick to 1%. The debate is open. In any case, we have to wait for the outcome of the negotiations between the EU and the UK. If the latter wishes to maintain a cooperation with Europe, it will have to pay for like Switzerland and Norway which significantly contribute to the EU budget in order to have access to the single market and participate to several European programmes.
The second issue concerns the content and the mechanisms related to the CAP. It has to be admitted that rules have become so complex that those concerned consider they are far beyond their understanding. Moreover, the redistribution principle quantified by country makes it even trickier to understand. Eventually, during recent crises the limits came out due to the lack of appropriate means.
Overall, we have to ensure farms’ competitiveness and protect the climate and the environment at the same time. Therefore it is clear the research and the innovation have to be stimulated. The removal of some phytosanitary products is worth considering only if there is a development of substitutes in compliance with our instructions. Furthermore, the deterioration of climates increases the risks linked to bad weather and natural disasters.
Likewise the price volatility implies a need for stabilisation measures in order to maintain farmers’ revenues. It is therefore important to pay attention to the building of financial reserves for crises derogating from the budgetary principle of annuality. A support to an insurance system could be triggered as a complement. In any case, the European Parliament will contribute to the building of a clear political framework destined to preserve a common agricultural ambition at the European level through the Dorfmann report, which will be voted on 17 May.
The European Commission will deliver its proposals at the end of May. The political ambition and the feasibility of the programmes will be revealed through the level of the allocated appropriations. My concern is that everyone finally opts for continuity and the “business as usual” principle.
Whatever will be the answers to both questions I raised, it is important to keep in mind that the market is European. Therefore, the competition has to be fair and the rules enacted should be applied and respected everywhere with the same impartiality and precision. The perspective of a renationalisation scenario would impede this evidence. A sustainable and ambitious CAP is absolutely essential. It is even more necessary as the agricultural sector lives a true revolution.
The Common Agricultural Policy can display this role model: Yes, Europe is a strength for our cultural diversity. No, the CAP does not favour the standardisation as some would like to make the others believe. On the contrary, it makes real our dream of a Europe where everyone can coexist on a same market, with the solidarity necessary for an equilibrium between our territories.
The economic models are changing. The agronomical knowledge has never been such extended and has never grown so rapidly. From one farm to another, the level of technology, the ability to integrate the innovations or join new economic models strongly differ.
We need a new agricultural ambition at the level of our continent in order to bring our farmers on the path of excellence and accompany them in the changes undertaken and the quest for economically sustainable solutions. Let’s make and support the economic and environmental excellence through the CAP! It is a trust contract between the agricultural sector and the European citizens. Let’s accept to pay the price for it. Our common future depends from it.
By way of conclusion, I would like to underline that the CAP is not only a bulk of budgetary appropriations. The farmers’ income also depends from trade policy and competition law. It is useless to grant public subsidies to beef farmers if cheap imports bankrupt them. The negotiation of free trade agreements should be defined by a strategic vision and the agriculture cannot become the adjusting variable.
Concerning the competition rules, the Omnibus recently approved is a very much appreciated step forward. It is indeed needed to allow farmers gathering in order to define their own business strategy and get back a power of negotiation in their relations with converters and distributors. There is then a consistency requirement which implies a simplification without which we waste a lot of energy and money during the administrative and control procedures.
We finally have to confirm, while bearing in mind the diversity of countries and situations, that we have the same vision for the Europe of tomorrow: a Europe which shapes our future, a Europe which helps us to structure and protect our sectors. A Europe which takes care of its food sovereignty and security, a Europe which supports the economic dynamism and the social cohesion within its territories as a whole.