Member of the European Commission responsible for agriculture and rural
Meeting with Parliamentary Agriculture Committee
It's a great privilege to stand in the Parliament of Cyprus and address this Committee.
As a former member of the Danish Parliament you always feel humble visiting Parliaments in other Member States.
But "last" doesn't mean "least", of course! As I told members of your agricultural associations yesterday, I have been greatly looking forward to seeing the cultural treasures of your island, and to meeting as many people as possible involved with the agri-food sector. The discussions which I have already had have been informative and thought-provoking.
I’m here at a time when the European Union as a whole is regaining momentum.
European leaders showed last week that that Union can still find a great deal of common ground within diverse national interests. The new treaty agreed in substance will give the Union both the institutional framework and the powers that it needs to vigorously pursue the policies that our citizens want.
Likewise, policy-making in the area of agriculture is moving ahead with real momentum – as we work to ensure that our Common Agricultural Policy gives the right support to our farmers, food-producers and rural areas, while also responding to the public's wider expectations.
This work must continue despite the serious difficulties which we are now experiencing in the Doha Round of WTO trade talks, and the uncertainty which this creates.
I have not tried to hide my disappointment at the failure of recent discussions in Potsdam between the European Union, the United States, Brazil and India. Some of our trade partners have clearly not understood that the Doha Round is not only about agricultural concessions from developed countries.
The only possible agreement in this Round is a balanced agreement – which means balance within the agricultural section of the talks, and balance between agriculture, services and industrial goods. Without this balance, we all walk away with nothing.
The European Union will not give up on the Doha Round while there remains a spark of hope. But as I say: in the meantime, for our own benefit, the “work in progress” on the CAP must and will continue.
I’m very pleased that we recently agreed a new deal for the European fruit and vegetable sector. Producers in this sector have often felt the heat in the past. The reform package should do a great deal to bolster competitiveness and expand the ways in which producers can help themselves, mainly through co-operation within Producer Organisations. It will also bring the sector into line with the rest of the reformed CAP.
Now we need to strengthen the policy foundation for our wine sector.
Thankfully, everyone has recognised that we have a genuine challenge to face up to. We have been pouring taxpayers’ money into distillation schemes while New World wine-producers have been running rings round us in some markets. Clearly, we must take a different approach to helping Europe’s excellent wines punch their weight around the world more consistently.
Exactly what approach to take has of course been the subject of a very warm debate. I can promise you that my legal reform proposals, which the Commission will adopt on 4 July, will take full account of the comments I have heard from around Europe - Cyprus included.
I will put on the table a proposal for a genuine reform which will build competitiveness but also do justice to environmental and other concerns in wine-growing areas.
More generally, as you know, later this year I will launch the exercise which I call the “CAP Health Check”. This will assess whether the reformed CAP is meeting its objectives as effectively, efficiently and simply as possible – in a European Union of 27 Member States, and in the foreseeable international context.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this exercise is necessary. The CAP covers some very complex things – not just food production, but also environmental issues and the health of rural communities. After observing how a major reform has worked out in practice, it’s sensible to take stock and examine whether any adjustments are needed. This is especially true as 12 new Member States have joined the Union since the basis of the reform was agreed in 2003!
Within the Health Check, we will look first of all at how well the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) is working.
We will propose further moves towards more decoupling in the Member States which do not apply the Single Area Payments Scheme (SAPS).
You can probably expect us to propose a higher level of compulsory modulation, to give us the funding that we need for our ambitious rural development policy.
Furthermore, our work on cross-compliance will continue, following our report of March this year. A particular topic for the Health Check will be the scope of cross-compliance.
Also within the Health Check, we will of course examine our various market instruments – intervention, quotas and so on.
In particular, I have given a clear signal that we should not renew the milk quota system when it expires in 2015. Therefore, we need to think carefully about transitional measures to help give the sector a soft landing.
Beyond the Health Check, we will also reflect on the future of the CAP after 2013 as part of a review of the European Union budget as a whole.
I don't want to say too much about the Budget Review now. But I will say that it must not be a discussion about saving a few euros here, a few euros there. This must be above all a discussion about policy – about getting the CAP that we need after 2013.
I am confident that this CAP will still have a "first pillar" of some kind, but we will need to think carefully about the exact form of that pillar.
We will also need a strong second pillar – rural development policy – to continue to support competitiveness, care for the environment, economic diversification and a high quality of life in our rural areas.
I will conclude here my summary of the main tasks which face us in the coming months and years – in order to leave plenty of time for your questions.
But I urge you: work with me in these tasks.
The work of reforming and adapting the CAP in a changing world is not easy. There is always a balance to be struck between the need for a common policy and the need for flexibility. But I believe this work has been progressing well over the last few years. And with your help, we can keep up that progress – towards a strong, supple, useful CAP for the future.
Thank you for listening, and I'm ready for your questions.