Parliament sets out demands on CAP reform
MEPs have set out their list of demands regarding the future shape of the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP), insisting that EU farm payments should not be reduced.
In adopting the non-legislative resolution in Strasbourg on Thursday (8 July), the euro deputies also rejected the idea of a partial 're-nationalisation' of the CAP, under which national governments would co-finance farmers, together with the EU budget.
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The result allies the parliament with countries opposing a radicle reform of the CAP, such as France, but pits it against some in the European Commission and other member states, primarily the UK, which argue the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Agricultural payments make up roughly 40 percent of the EU's €120 billion annual budget, with the current farming policy set to expire at the end of 2013.
"Since the CAP will have to confront many challenges and pursue broader objectives after 2013, it is essential that the budget ... is at least maintained at current levels," MEPs stressed in the resolution drawn up by British Liberal MEP George Lyon.
As a result of the Lisbon Treaty, the euro parliamentarians now have an equal say over CAP reform and the creation of the bloc's multi-annual budget for first time in the EU's history, adding greater importance to Thursday's statement of intent.
EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos welcomed the result of the vote, saying the suggestions were a useful input into the commission's communication on the post-2013 CAP, expected this November.
"This own-initiative report raises important issues about the need to ensure a better balance at the heart of the CAP between food security and the efficient management of natural resources," said the Romanian commissioner, whose appointment was supported by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Following the communication, the commission will come forward with legislative proposals by next June, roughly the same time it will make suggestions on the shape and size of the EU's overall budget for 2014-2020.
Amongst other measures included in parliament's resolution, MEPs called for an EU funded top-up payment for farmers who reduce their carbon emissions and adopt methods that increase the level of CO2 stored in soil.
They also said the gap between farm payments to 'new' and 'old' member states should be reduced, with farmers in countries that that joined in 2004 or later currently receiving lower levels of direct support. The MEPs said the CAP's two pillars - direct payments to farmers and funding for rural development - should stay put.
The debate on the future of the CAP comes at the same time as the European Commission is restarting talks with the South American trade bloc Mercosur, an agri-power, causing alarm in EU states with large farming sectors, and causing several MEPs to voice strong criticism on Thursday.
"A deal with Mercosur while we debate the future of the CAP would be a disaster," Irish centre-right MEP Mairead McGuinness said. "This will be extremely severe with job losses and a reduction in EU agriculture output with negative consequences for large parts of the EU."
Spanish MEPs and those from business-orientated constituencies tend to support the reopening of the talks however, as they are likely to lead to a lowering of industrial trade barriers. Spanish firms are well represented in the area.