Funding for farmers must be fairer and more focused on local and regional requirements, and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) has urged in an own initiative opinion on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy, adopted at its Plenary Session on Wednesday.
The opinion, drafted by René Souchon (FR/PES), President of the Auvergne regional council and a former French agriculture minister, is the CoR's response to the call by EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos i for input from local and regional actors on the future of one of the EU's most controversial and expensive policies.
Commissioner Ciolos attended the CoR Plenary Session for the second time in succession to hear the Committee's position, and took advantage of his visit to ask for a further opinion from the CoR, this time on how to give greater support to local agricultural marketing (the so-called 'short-circuit') and to promoting small-scale, high quality agricultural output.
In his opinion, Souchon sets out a number of red lines which he believes must not be crossed. "First, it is clear that the CAP should remain an EU policy: the Committee of the Regions will resist any attempt to renationalise farm expenditure, as has been called for by some Member States. Second, we need to establish what we consider the goals of the CAP before setting its budget - and not limit our aims to what can be achieved by the money available. Third, we need a future CAP that is more responsive to the demands of modern farming - one that rewards farmers who act responsibly towards the environment or who invest in organic production, for example, and that is tailored to the needs of each specific region rather than subject to a one-size-fits-all approach."
The opinion states that while it is important to develop tools to stabilise prices and tools for managing production, the future CAP should also see an end to the so-called "historical references", which compensated producers based on their output several years previously and which has led to significant disparities in payments to farmers in "old" and "new" Member States.
Souchon also calls on the European Commission to ensure greater coordination between the CAP and cohesion policy in the area of rural development. His initial proposal to transfer the non-agricultural measures from the second "pillar" of the CAP to cohesion policy was considered too radical by the CoR Plenary. But the Committee nonetheless agreed that it was important to clarify the situation with regard to support for non-agricultural rural activities, to ensure that rural communities across the EU get the support they need.
Responding to this key demand, Commissioner Ciolos reassured the CoR that "both Commissioner Hahn and myself will work to remove the grey areas in order to ensure better coordination between cohesion policy and the CAP. Our aim is to improve the relationship between urban and rural areas and the social and environmental challenges they face."
Souchon concluded: "It is important that, as the body representing local and regional authorities at the EU level, the Committee of the Regions takes a strong position on the future of this key European policy, and that is what we have done today by adopting this opinion. We have made it clear to Commissioner Ciolos that we want to see a far greater involvement of local and regional authorities in distributing CAP support - since we know better than anyone where the money needs to be spent - and that we want a policy that is fairer, more flexible and that encourages sustainable production at the same time as protecting rural livelihoods and ensuring Europe's food supply".
For more details, see the interviews with Dacian Ciolos and René Souchon.
Visit the CoR's website: www.cor.europa.eu
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.