Consensus on post-2013 CAP still elusive
By Louis Antoine | Monday 29 March 2010
In the absence of consensus at this stage on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Spanish EU Presidency had to make do, at the Agriculture Council on 29 March in Brussels, with presenting its own conclusions on market management measures and improving the way the food supply chain operates. On the first point, it had not even contemplated the adoption of Council conclusions, but on the second, it tried unsuccessfully to have conclusions approved. In both cases, the most liberal member states refused to play the game.
The “majority” of the 27 ministers find that the CAP is “sufficiently” market oriented and recommend that a “safety net” and existing instruments – possibly revised - remain in place for the entire agro-food sector, according to the Spanish Presidency’s conclusions on post-2013 management measures. The Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies support and “subscribe unconditionally” to these conclusions.
The text, which sums up the exchange of views by ministers at the previous meeting, on 22 February, states that “some” member states support the creation of new tools: strengthening of producers’ and joint trade organisations, establishment of “standard contracts” in the sector to improve its functioning and the transparency of prices, income insurance and operators’ earnings.
The Spanish Presidency also notes that “a significant number” of member states consider that “sufficient resources” must be foreseen in the Union’s next financial framework to “react promptly to any serious crisis” of EU dimensions.
Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Estonia, which support a more market-oriented policy, considered that this text fails to reflect the positions expressed.
Four member states – the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic – found that the conclusions on the food supply chain presented by the Spanish Presidency went too far on three points: strengthening and expansion of the scope of activity of joint trade organisations and, through a fine-tuning of EU rules, of agricultural cooperatives and producers organisations; establishment of ‘standard contracts’ in the sector, which would be optional but could be made mandatory at national level; and the possible modification of competition rules to take account of the specific nature of the agro-food sector.
The text also argues for greater price transparency and reflection on the labelling of agricultural products, sought by some member states. It recommends “stricter controls” to identify unfair trading practices and the adoption of codes of good commercial practices.