Monday, January 24, 2005

Uncommon Agricultural Policy?

Ever since the 2003 reforms of the CAP, there has been concern about renationalisation of the CAP. Within certain limits, the reforms allowed member states to decide how far they would decouple payments for different commodities. The basis on which the Single Farm Payment was made also varies between (and within) member states. The availability of 'national envelopes' for special payments to particular categories of producer also raises competition issues within a supposedly single market.

Now the issue of co-financing for 'Pillar One' of the CAP has raised its head, particularly in Germany. (The second pillar is subject to co-financing). It has been argued that it should be on a 75-25 basis with member states having to find €25 from their own funds for every €75 they wanted from Brussels. This could be a means of holding down EU spending and allowing net conributor states to keep spending down to one per cent or less of gross national income.

The talk has rung alarm bells in the Commission which has moved swiftly to knock the idea on the head. Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has argued that if co-financing was compulsory, it would mean a complete renationalisation of the CAP. If it was made compulsory, then the bottom line would always be the same. Resorting to the old argument that the CAP is the foundation stone of the EU, she declared, 'agricultural policy is the only common policy we do have in the EU and this would be the end of it.'

The renationalisation genie is, however, out of the bottle and we may not have heard the last of this idea.

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