Monday, July 27, 2009

Franco German alliance revived

France and Germany are seeking to revive the Franco-German alliance on CAP reform, seeking to agree a mutual deal which they can then impose on others. This may, however, not be so easy in a 27 member state EU. France and Germany may, however, be able to exploit the existence of a lame duck administration in Britain, the main champion of liberal solutions, combined with a likely change of government next year.

Paris and Berlin haveannounced the creation of a Franco-German working group to frame reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013. The working group was established on 2 July, a day before newly-appointed French Farm Minister Bruno Le Maire met with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to explain France's stance on the future reform.

Le Maire said Barroso had shared his views on the 'strategic importance' of agriculture to the EU and on guaranteeing European food security.' It is absolutely necessary to regulate production,' Le Maire told the press after the meeting, insisting that the agricultural sector is far too strategic to be left to market forces alone.

'More regulation' will be France's guiding line in negotiations on farm reform, he added. But regulation does not necessarily mean quotas, he added, a reference to ongoing protests over milk prices.

'Our main political objective must be to guarantee stable and decent revenue for farmers,' he went on, noting that French farmers had lost 20 pet cent of their income since 2008. Such price volatility and decreases are 'not economically viable' and 'farmers cannot live with such instability,' he stressed. In other words, they must be funded by European taxpayers.

Franco-German cooperation on CAP reform will be very tight, Le Maire said, indicating that he would add a German official to his cabinet to prepare the work. Similarly, a French official will be sent to Berlin, he said.

The working group is open for others to join, he added, announcing a charm offensive tour of EU capitals that will start in London before going to Madrid, Rome, Bucharest and Warsaw. Paris and Berlin expect to table their first guiding principles for CAP reform 'in the coming months,' he added.

The appointment of Marie, formerly junior minister for European affairs, as farm minister in the 23 June reshuffle was itself significant. An ENArque, he has no clear agricultural experience or background. He is, however, a fluent German speaker and made numerous visits to Berlin in the first half of the year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Superficial change

Santiago, Chile: it was argued in the panel on agricultural policy and trade at the IPSA conference yesterday that the so-called ´paradigm shift´ in discussion of the CAP had not occurred in 2003 as some had argued or, if it had, it had had few concrete results. Supposedly the state assisted paradigm was replaced by a new multifunctionality paradigm. However, it was argued by Carsten Daugbjerg from Aarhus University that the multifunctionality paradigm provided cover for the continuation of state assistance.

Another paper looked at ´rent seeking´ interpretations of agricultural subsidy. From the ensuing discussion a view emerged that whilst such models might not be able to explain the origins of subsidy policies, they might be useful in understanding their continuation.