French farm minister Christine Lagarade only lasted a month in the job before being promoted to finance minister and her successor, Michel Barnier, is not good news if you are a reformist.
He said on Tuesday that his experience as a European Commissioner could help him defend the interests of French farmers within the EU and on a global level. The 56-year old is familiar with the workings of the European Union from his time as commissioner for regional policy and institutional reform from 1999-2004, when he managed the second largest EU budget after agriculture. He was also French foreign minister from 2004 to 2005, but was replaced after French votes rejected the EU constitution in a referendum.
'I will say now what I have always said when I was foreign minister: the common agricultural policy is not an archaic policy. It's modern,' he told RTL radio. So French farmers have nothing to fear, but the rest of us do.
Sarkozy is basically a conservative (he is certainly not a liberal) and he has more important agenda items than agriculture where basically his strategy seems to be not to offend the powerful French farmers lobby.
When I was in Paris, one questioner when I gave my paper suggested that the SFP was deliberately introduced to give a more transparent instrument that would draw public attention to the payments made to big farmers. I do not think the reformist camp was that smart.
In any case, actually getting hold of this information and publishing it is quite difficult as is evident from Jack Thurston's blog at Farm Subsidies Four countries have declined to supply the information and for most member states, including the UK, only partial information is available.