European Commission - Press release
European Commission puts new amendments on the table to overcome deadlock on Food for the Deprived scheme
Brussels, 03 October 2011 – The EU Aid for the Needy scheme, which provides food for as many as 18 million of the EU's most deprived citizens, faces a drastic cut in spending next year following a Court ruling in April. In a further effort to overcome the deadlock in the Council of Ministers and maintain the food distribution programme at current levels, the European Commission has today put forward a second amended proposal to provide an impetus for a political agreement and to allow the successful food distribution scheme to continue in 2012 and 2013, as well as in the future. The amendments proposed today will add a second legal base, namely social cohesion, reflecting the scheme's important social dimension. A further change is to remove the proposed provision for co-financing the scheme in future. Earlier proposals to avoid this problem were tabled by the Commission in 2008 and 2010 have been backed by the European Parliament and a number of Member States, but the dossier remains blocked in the Council.
László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said: "In today's difficult economic climate, solidarity must remain a key element in Europe's social engagement. He added: "Hunger in the European Union is simply not acceptable. I am confident that today's proposal will help avoid dramatic cuts in resources for organisations providing food to deprived people. With the winter campaigns about to start, we need to make progress fast and I call on Member States to do the necessary to get this programme back on track".
Dacian Cioloş, EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, stated: “I am particularly concerned by the stalemate over this dossier, especially at this time of economic crisis. With the change in the legal base, we hope to address the problems seen by some Member States for the programme in the short-term. Discussion of the scheme after 2013 will come at a later date. In response to calls from the European Parliament and certain Member States, we have also moved on the proposed co-funding element. We now call on Member States to take their responsibility with regard to the millions of needy citizens around the EU who are waiting for a decision by member states before the winter period. The money is available and can be allocated if we can get the political accord.”
Since September 2010, the Commission proposal to allow the EUR 500 million food scheme to continue at the usual level in 2012 and 2013 has been waiting for a decision from Member States. This new decision is necessary in view of the judgment of the General Court of 13 April 2011 which deemed it illegal under the current legal basis to purchase products for the scheme on the open market. Because of the Court ruling, the Commission was legally obliged to limit the funding for the 2012 programme to the available intervention stocks, which amounts to EUR 113.5 million, even though there is a budget of €500 million foreseen [See IP/11/756]. Given the market situation (with no intervention stocks expected next year), the fear is that there will be no budget at all available for the 2013 programme – unless Ministers can accept the proposed changes.
For the longer term, the European Commission is also preparing a proposal for the end of this year to extend the programme beyond 2013. In line with today's proposal, which adds a social cohesion legal base to the pending proposal, the Commission will propose, with effect from 2014, to incorporate the scheme among its EU social policy instruments with an allocation of EUR 2.5 billion for the seven-year period, as outlined in the proposals for the post-2013 budget published in June. .
First introduced in 1987, the programme originally provided surplus stocks of farm produce ("intervention stocks") to needy people. The programme has successfully contributed to combat poverty and promote social inclusion, an essential part of social cohesion, with as many as 18 million Europeans in 21 different Member States benefiting from the programme. The Commission first came forward with a proposal to amend the scheme in September 2008 in order to provide more flexibility for sourcing food from the market for the programmes [See IP/08/1335]. With no progress in Council, the Commission came forward with a revised proposal in September 2010 [See IP/10/1141], but the dossier still remains blocked in Council.