Thursday, October 11, 2012

France and Germany do their deal

Long-term observers of the CAP know that any agreement between France and Germany can often shape the direction of the reform process. Even with many more member states, this still remains true. Earlier this week the two countries issued a joint statement calling for a freeze at 2013 levels in nominal terms Agreement

Calls for a nominal freeze in the budget, which will still mean a decline in real terms, have been growing in recent months and around half of governments voiced their support for the Commission plan at a General Affairs Council late last month.

The country’s two agriculture ministers – France’s St├ęphane Le Foll (rather superior and disdainful in a typical French mode) and German counterpart Ilse Aigner – came to the agreement after meeting in Berlin. They cited the 'importance of the CAP for growth, employment and the environment and innovation in rural areas along with Europe's role in ensuring food security worldwide', in their statement. In other words, the traditional rather general but fine sounding justifications of a dysfunctional policy.

Their rejection of any reduction in Pillar One allocations was also notable taking into consideration the fact that Germany is the biggest contributor to EU funds, while France is the biggest beneficiary of direct aid payments. Germany and France join the likes of Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Spain in opposing cuts, leaving member states such as the UK, Netherlands and Sweden seeking a more austere budget with a reduced prospect of success.

Of course, British prime minister Dave Cameron is under heavy pressure from within his own party to take a tough line in budget negotiations. Indeed, Dave is no fan of the EU and reflects the traditional British distaste for the CAP in particular. Vetoing the budget would go down well at home, but it would also mean that the EU would revert to annual budgets determined by qualified majority voting, reduced the influence of Britain and its allies.

Meanwhile for an authoritative account of tensions between member states and the European Parliament over the CAP, this blog post by Christilla Roderer-Rynning is recommended: Parliament

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