Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Franz Fischler

I name Franz Fischler as a politician I admire on one of my other blogs: Fischler

Friday, December 11, 2009

New farm boss faces confirmation battle

The European Parliament always likes to assert itself by refusing to confirm one or two nominated commissioners in its confirmation hearings and the designate new farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos could be in their sights as the youngest and least experienced of the nominations. Although nominally an independent, he has been embraced by the centre right European People's Party, but they could easily drop him if the heat is turned up.

He got the nomination despite a late push by 'old' member states to nominate Ireland's Marie Geoghegan Quinn who was acceptable to France. However, they had left it too late to get the nomination for their candidate. Finland's Olli Rehn and Slovenia's Janez Potocnik were also in the frame at one time, while the favourite for a while was Latvia's Andris Pieblags who had shadowed Franz Fischler in 2004. To many it was a surprise that Ciolos got the nomination.

There have been complaints that Ciolos is 'too French' in the sense that his postgraduate education was undertaken in France and that his family and France's Michel Barnier's family are personal friends. He also has a French wife whom he met when both of them were trainees in DG AGRI. Ciolos was in fact appointed a director in DG AGRI earlier in the year, but was not able to take up the post.

His defenders argue that he is committed to a 'modern concept' of European agricultural and rural development policy in line with Commission thinking.

The appointment of John Dalli as the new Health Commissioner is also significant for farm policy. His appointment was perhaps even more surprising than that of Ciolos. Although the 61-year old is a big name in Malta where he was the longest serving Minister of Finance, he is less well known at a EU level.

DG SANCO will now take over responsibility for GMO cultivation and pesticides which currently resides with unit D.4 in DG ENVI. It is thought that this is because Commission president Barroso is looking for a more scientific, depoliticised approach to the GM debate.

Dalli has no prior experience of the food safety and animal health issues for which he will now take responsibility.

Cross-compliance is not delivering

Cross-compliance has no clear objectives, does not reflect the 'polluter pays' principle and is not being properly enforced, and is therefore not providing concrete diversity promotion, according to a new report. Published by Birdlife International it is entitled 'Through the green smokescreen. How is CAP cross compliance delivering for biodiversity.' It can be found here: Birdlife

Birdlife highlights that some of the biggest burdens imposed by cross-compliance are perversely felt by extensive livestock producers, i.e. the production systems which are most important for biodiversity and for which subsidy levels are usually lower than more intensive farms. It advocates a complete and urgent overhaul of the whole system and the need to realign the whole CAP to the principles of Rural Development.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Scotland 'on message' on farm subsidies

Scotland is far more in tune with current thinking on farm subsidies in mainland Europe than England and Wales, claims Scotland's rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead.

Addressing farmers at a Christmas Carcass competition in Inverurie, Mr Lochhead brought them glad tidings about the deep divide in agriculture policies on the two sides of the border. 'My opinion on CAP reform is very different from DEFRA's view that all direct subsidies should be removed and we should rely on a free market. Scotland should not go down that route and our thinking is much closer to the mainstream of Europe which is that the pendulum is swinging back towards support for active agriculture.'

The minister felt that outgoing farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel didn't envisage that pendulum swinging too far, ruling out headage payments, but new commissioner Dacian Ciolos could bring in a new era.

There are certainly those in Brussels who think that Ciolos will favour more market support and help to smaller farms. However, others take the view that he is on message with the Commission view on reform and has been playing down his linkages with France to reassure pro-reform countries.

However, Christmas has come early for some English farmers, with over 80 per cent of farmers receiving £1.3bn in Single Farm Payments to date. That's approximately £15,116 per recipient. Not quite a banker's bonus, but welcome all the same. Organicduck tweeted from Devon, 'Hurrah and thank you RPA. Maybe off Christmas shopping or maybe pay off some overdraft.' Payments are also well advanced in Wales and Scotland.