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Brussels, 19 October 2005
The Commission Communication on “Simplification and Better Regulation for the Common Agricultural Policy” examines the possibilities for and limitations to simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The plan was already announced at the December 2004 Agriculture Council and has since been made known to the European Parliament Agriculture Committee and to the public.
The Communication forms part of the CAP’s contribution to realising the Lisbon strategy and the Commission’s overall legislative simplification strategy. A Commission-wide “simplification initiative” is being put in place by the Commission, to which DG Agriculture and this communication aim to contribute. The general aim is to reduce the regulatory burden and cut red tape.
At the same time, it forms part of a long tradition of CAP simplification activities (from improvement of content and presentation of agricultural texts to specific simplification projects and, especially, integrating simplification concerns in CAP reforms). This on-going activity from the early nineties has always been carried out by the Commission with the support and collaboration from national authorities.
2. What simplification is, and isn’t
The purpose of simplification in the public sector is to ensure that policies, the mechanisms chosen to implement them and the necessary legal framework are never more complex than is necessary to achieve the intended objectives effectively. Simplification as a process aims to identify and remove sources of unnecessary burdens.
There are different aspects to simplification:
Simplification is not intended as an additional forum where interested or disappointed parties can attempt to reopen decisions which have already been concluded in the appropriate forum.
Simplification is not intended as a kind of ‘homogenisation’ process, it is intended to lead to the creation of appropriate solutions to needs and problems.
Control burdens are often cited by Member States as being one of their major concerns. Simplification actions must not be allowed to adversely affect the need to protect the financial interests of the EU. The CAP is largely a public expenditure policy, and no weakening of essential management and control rules can be envisaged in the name of simplification. This does not, of course, rule out the possibility of seeking to achieve the same degree of financial assurance using more streamlined and cost-effective procedures.
It is important not to have exaggerated expectations of the possibilities of simplification in agriculture.
The CAP will always be by nature a complex policy, since it reflects the heterogeneous realities of agriculture in the EU, and the more closely it resembles reality, the more it inevitably becomes complicated. There is not only a huge variety of natural environmental conditions to be found in the territory of the EU, but also considerable heterogeneity amongst Member States’ agricultural economies and administrative traditions. The recent enlargement of the EU has increased this heterogeneity. Careful analysis and well founded policy decisions may lead to justifiably complex legislation.
The fundamental political decision enshrined in the Treaties to provide financial support to the farming sector results in a public expenditure policy which requires a legal framework, control measures to protect the financial interests of the taxpayers and ensure sound management of the considerable sums of public money involved, and bureaucratic mechanisms to manage markets.
Simplification also has its limitations:
4. The 2003 – 2004 reforms
Many features of these reforms will produce a more efficient and simpler agricultural policy in the longer term, which will be more effective in supporting the farming sector. The co-existence of different systems of agricultural support in the transitional phase – an option requested by Member States during discussion in the Council of Ministers – clearly carries a potential for greater complication rather than simplification, but there is no requirement for Member States to apply different support systems simultaneously, and the potential for simplification is available to them should they wish to take advantage of it. The replacement of several different premium systems with the Single Farm Payment greatly enhances the potential for simplification.
5. Examples of simplification work already achieved
Various types of simplification projects have been undertaken within DG Agriculture; specific simplification projects have tended to focus on processes rather than specific policy areas.
Examples of this include:
6. The way forward
The Communication proposes in particular: