The Franco-British Council invited me to a large seminar in London yesterday on the Common Agricultural Policy. It was a very interesting day, although it was somewhat disconcerting to be asked questions in French about the policy from its defenders. Those present were a mix of academic and practitioners.
The meeting was conducted on Chatham House terms, but it gave an interesting indication of both current French and British thinking on the future of the CAP. Over the next week or so, I will reflect on some of the arguments put forward. The overall atmosphere was one of constructive dialogue, although one French speaker had to get in a dig about Britain not having learnt anything from BSE.
Much of the discussion focused on Pillar 2 issues in terms of rural development and how the CAP could be developed to meet the challenge of climate change. Indeed, one argument put forward from the British side was that the distinction between the pillars had become unhelpful and what was needed was a blended rural and environmental policy.
I wouldn't claim that the French participants necessarily bought into this, but I think there was an acceptance that there had to be debate about the underlying principles and goals of the CAP and without this one would not be able to arrive at better policy.