Friday, February 15, 2008

Fischler speaks out


Alpine farmer and CAP reformer Franz Fischler

I have recently been working with others on an edited collection to be brought out from the Centre for Policy Studies in Brussels which re-visits the Fischler reforms of the CAP. The discussions held in relation to the book, which involved some people who knew Fischler's work well, confirmed my view that he was someone who combined strategic vision with a wily use of tactics and an understanding of which political buttons to push when.

Now the former farm supremo has provided a rare interview to Agra Focus. One of the intresting points he makes that two much is made of the difference between the two pillars: 'They are man-made and we should not make an icon of these structures.' What is important is that the money goes to the right recipients.

Fischler clearly thinks that it doesn't and he considers that rural development funding gives 'too much emphasis ... to agriculture, and not enough recognition of the countryside as a whole, including the non-agricultural population.' He also thinks that co-funding of the Single Farm Payment will come back on the agenda, thereby removing one of the main differences between the first and second pillars.

Fischler thinks that there will be 'start-up problems' with the co-decision process in the European Parliament, for example in terms of potential conflicts between the Agriculture and Budget committees. If these problems cannot be overcome, there is a high risk of delay to all reforms. He thinks that in the longer run the driving force behind EU reform packages will be the budget.

With the disapperance of the traditional intervention mechanisms, Fischelr revives the argument about the need for new forms and mechanisms to cover price volatility such as private-public partnerships in insurance systems or even concepts linked to futures markets.

He raises the issue of concentration in the retail sector, suggesting that an international competion regulator is needed, perhaps the WTO. However, this would seem to lie outside its remit. Moreover, competition authorities have not had much success in tackling this issue at the domestic level.

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