René Souchon (FR/PES), Chairman of the Committee of the Regions' Commission for Natural Resources and President of the Auvergne Region, has welcomed the vote in the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), which now gives Parliament a negotiating mandate to open discussions with the Council on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In the view of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Europe's regions need the budgetary and legislative framework to be confirmed as soon as possible to ensure the continuity of the programmes running in the regions.
Progress on the distribution of direct aid remains inadequate
The CoR welcomes the progress that has been made on distributing direct payments more fairly through increased aid for small farmers, caps on support for active farmers and the faster pace of convergence among Member States. The Committee is also pleased at the flexibility given to Member States with regards to achieving national convergence, which will help the regions take greater account of specific local and regional characteristics.
While appreciating the principle of capping aid at EUR 300 000, René Souchon is nevertheless disappointed that the ceilings now being proposed by the AGRI Committee are too high to enable a genuine redistribution and to limit the speculation now taking place in certain Member States. On this point, the Committee of the Regions will continue striving to ensure that the ceiling is lowered to EUR 200 000 in the vote at the Parliament's plenary session, because what is at stake is the credibility of the policy itself.
An opportunity for the financing of rural areas
At a time when the funds available for the development of rural areas are in danger of drying up severely in the next programming period, both for cohesion policy and rural development policy, the CoR welcomes the possibility opened up by the European Parliament of transferring up to 15% of funds from the 1st pillar (direct payments) to the 2nd pillar (rural development). The CoR considers that given the enormous needs of rural areas, which are falling behind urban areas, the European Union should develop a genuine rural development strategy and ensure it has the appropriate means.