European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
Six key points for a consistent CAP reform
Debate on the Reform of the Common Agriculture Policy / Plenary session of the European Parliament, Strasbourg
12 March 2013
Let me start by thanking you for your commitment from the outset to the process of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. I would also like to thank the rapporteurs and the shadow rapporteurs. Because of this intensive work on the four regulations – direct payments, rural development, the single CMO and the horizontal regulation - Parliament is now in a position to vote on its negotiating mandate in advance of the Council which should adopt its own negotiating mandate next week.
This stage in defining your negotiating mandate is crucial to allow you to actively participate in the second stage of negotiating an agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
This is not, therefore, the end of the process. It is the beginning of political negotiations with a view to agreeing an ambitious and pragmatic reform of the CAP. I hope that, together, we will be able to achieve this by June.
There are some issues to be clarified between ourselves and the Council at the trilogues. However, I think that we agree on the basic principles. This augurs well for the next stage of the negotiations between the three institutions.
The issue of fairness will be one of the key subjects for discussion in this final phase. I know many of you have already argued strongly in favour of capping or redressing the balance of aid between Member States, and have sought to promote the concept of active farmers, degressivity and internal convergence: all these are indeed important for targeting public spending in a more efficient manner. It is in this context that I support the idea of setting an absolute minimum goal for internal convergence, as has already been set for external convergence. Convergence of direct payments should not remain a concept but should become a tangible and ambitious reality by 2019.
This change must be accompanied by additional tools that allow us to respond to the realities of farming and to the expectations of society. Let me give you three examples:
Of course all this must be managed as efficiently as possible. Over the past months we have worked together a great deal on this issue. I particularly support the idea of a rapid suspension of Member State reimbursements if major management and control problems have been detected and have not been properly addressed.
On the subject of 'greening' - this is an instrument for adding value to the production of public goods. It reflects the economic dimension of soil fertility and of biodiversity. It is also a means to combat climate change. This change in the CAP is necessary both of the good management of natural resources and for farmers.
We cannot fall to the temptations of greenwashing or to artificial measures which would have a doubtful effect and which would be very complicated, leading to unacceptably high errors rates.
However, I agree with the principle of certain agri-environment packages being equivalent to the three proposed greening measures, but on three conditions: that the alternative measures are as effective and more appropriate at local level; that the system remains simple; and that all farmers are involved.
For taxpayers' money to be used efficiently I think it is important that the greening measures be the baseline for the 2nd pillar agri-environment measures and that the 7% of ecological focus areas play their role in stabilising farming ecosystems, which is synonymous with productivity and long-term competitiveness.
Let me add that to involve all farmers, greening must include a credible system of penalties, which goes beyond docking 30%.
Parallel to this, the position of agriculture in the economy and in the regions must be strengthened.
Firstly, in structural terms, encouraging producers' organisations, interbranch associations and short supply chains improves the competitiveness of these sectors and provides added value for farmers.
Furthermore, in this regard, the rules on competition need clarifying. We cannot do everything we want to do in this field, both of us know this well. I stress a particular point on which we must continue to work: what provisions should be introduced to be able to manage the worst crises in the most efficient way, or, better, to prevent these crises from arising in the first place, and, in our common interest, to limit the negative economic impact for the farming sector and to use public funds in the best way.
Moreover, we must keep our instruments for addressing difficult market situations. Private storage and public intervention measures must be complemented by:
The end of the sugar quotas must be seen in this context, since they no longer meet today's economic challenges. Similarly, for the wine sector, the High Level Group on wine planting rights has put forward future options regarding the concept of authorisation.
We must work towards a redistribution of roles between the public authorities and the private sector, without going back to administered management but through flexible, efficient and pragmatic regulation – which is in touch with the realities of today's markets.
I want to close by turning to the transparency of CAP support: this is the cornerstone of taxpayers' confidence in the system. We have to tell the citizens how EU funds are being spent if we want the CAP to form a solid and lasting partnership between Europe and agriculture.
Let me thank you for your efforts; I am now looking forward to the discussions we will have with the aim of making balanced progress in three directions: supporting agricultural production that is competitive, that is sustainable, and that promotes jobs and the development of our regions.