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Brussels, 2 October 2006

CAP Reform: Commission steps up efforts to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy

Experts from around Europe gather in Brussels tomorrow for a two-day conference on simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy. The keynote speakers will be Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel and Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen. The results of the conference will feed into the Commission’s ongoing efforts to reduce the bureaucratic burden on farmers and national administrations. Cutting ‘red tape’ is a major priority for the European Commission, especially in view of the focus on growth and jobs in the Lisbon Strategy. And as the source of the greatest chunk of EU rules, agriculture must and will play its part. By its very nature, the CAP is complex. It addresses complex problems in a complex geographical setting and is the result of difficult political compromises. But this must not detract from the drive to make it simpler where that is possible. Simplification efforts focus on both technical and political simplification. In the first category are the Commission’s preparations for a single Common Market Organisation, where a proposal is expected in December. The latter is all about changing underlying policies in ways which make them simpler. The upcoming ‘health check’ of the CAP provides a perfect opportunity for further simplification work.

“The Common Agricultural Policy has a reputation for complexity. That is why it is one of my major priorities to simplify it,” said Mariann Fischer Boel. “This will make life easier for farmers, allowing them to get out of their offices and into the fields. It will also cut the bureaucratic burden on administrations. Simplification is not about ‘scrapping the CAP’, nor is it about weakening controls over how we spend taxpayers’ money. But there is much we can do. The CAP has remained strong by moving with the times. I am convinced it can play a leading role in our drive for simplification. The simpler it is, the better equipped the CAP will be to continue to play its key role in the EU’s rural economy.”

Vice President Gunter Verheugen said: "We are not just talking about modernising and simplifying our legislation, we are actually delivering. Our objective is to eliminate excessive bureaucracy in the Common Agricultural Policy. However, to be successful, we need partners - farmers, consumers, industry - and we need the support of the Member States and the European Parliament. We are striving to have modern and simple European legislation and we will only achieve this if the Common Agricultural Policy is also on board. Mariann Fischer Boel is at the forefront of the simplification effort and therefore has my full support. ”

The Common Agricultural Policy makes up the biggest share of EU legislation. It is therefore only right that it should play its part in the simplification agenda.

The Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development has already undertaken an action plan containing 20 proposals for practical changes. The Commission is planning in December to table a proposal for a single Common Market Organisation to replace the 21 CMOs which currently cover the different agricultural markets. This will allow the repeal of 35 Council Regulations and will increase transparency, improve the quality of legal texts and reduce costs for national administrations and companies.

In the context of the ‘health check’ of the CAP reforms, due to take place in 2008, a number of political decisions are possible which would greatly simplify the CAP. The ‘health check’ will include a debate about the future of a number of measures which add to the complexity of the CAP for both farmers and administrations. The reforms agreed since 2003 are already channelling around 90 percent of direct payments to farmers into the so-called single payment scheme. This simple system replaces the complex web of individual production-linked subsidies. Further decoupling of aid from production would do much to simplify the policy.

The updated Rural Development policy has also undergone considerable simplification for the period beginning 2007. A single funding, programming, financial management and control framework will replace two funding sources, five programming systems and three management and control systems.

The conference:

A Simple CAP for Europe: a challenge for all, 3/4 October, Royal Crown Hotel, Rue Royale 250, B-1210 Brussels.

Commissioner Fischer Boel will give a press conference at the end of the conference at 12.45 on 4 October.

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