Wednesday, March 09, 2016

An imperfect storm

A new book edited by Johann Swinnen entitled The Political Economy of the 2014-20 Common Agricultural Policy judges it to be an 'imperfect storm' compared with the 'perfect storm' of the Fischler reforms dealt with in an earlier book. The book has chapters written by leading experts on the CAP such as Alan Matthews, Tim Josling and Alan Swinbank.

The authors generally found the outcome of the 2013 decision to be disappointing. The policy changes were relatively minor and not always coherent. The term 'reform' is probably inappropriate.

In terms of explanation, the reform proposals presented by Commissioner Ciolos were not very ambitious to begin with, reflecting his inexperience and that of his cabinet. Another factor was the role of the European Parliament with COMAGRI able to control much of the decision-making with farm interests having more influence than environmental organisations. A final element was that the increase in global food prices pushed food security up the agenda.

The new CAP provides an unprecedented amount of flexibility for member states. However, flexibility may have been a rational choice by decision-makers to reach an agreement. It may become a permanent part of the CAP, reflecting the need to come to political decisions in an increasingly heterogeneous EU.

Alan Matthews suggests in his chapter that the reformist camp, always a minority among member states, seems to have lost much of its momentum and cohesion during the 2013 negotiations. The UK in particular was preoccupied with other issues.

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