Common Agricultural Policy
MEPs doubt Nicosia’s ability to advance CAP reform
By Joanna Sopinska | Wednesday 11 July 2012
Speaking at the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), on 10 July, Cypriot Agriculture Minister Sofoclis Aletraris pledged to take the ongoing work on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform forward during the second half of 2012. He outlined an “intensive” timetable for discussions “at all levels” and with concrete targets. Some MEPs openly called into question, however, Cyprus’ ability to strike a compromise.
Nicosia’s objective, according to Aletraris, is to adopt a “partial general approach” towards the CAP reform in November to set the “centre of gravity in the Council on each of the four draft regulations”. The consultation process leading towards this goal will be launched on 16 July with the agriculture ministers’ debate at their Council meeting in Brussels, focusing on rural development and the common organisation of markets in agricultural products, explained Aletraris. He said he expected the series of meetings in the coming months to yield important results, allowing the EU’s leaders to “achieve decisive progress” on CAP reform at the European Council meeting in December.
However, John Stuart Agnew (EFD, UK) doubted that Cyprus would manage to achieve progress before the end of 2012. “I have serious reservations about such a small country to steer the CAP reform” at such an important stage of the negotiations, said Agnew. He warned against a delay. “This whole thing may slip down,” said Agnew. “We may not achieve the reform by 1 January 2014,” commented Mairead McGuinness (EPP, Ireland), echoing Agnew’s reservations. Giovanni La Via (EPP, Italy) shared these concerns as to the tight schedule of the CAP reform negotiations. He pointed to the fact that the whole negotiating process is already delayed due to the lack of sufficient progress during the Danish Presidency. “The last part of the Danish Presidency did not bring the progress we were looking for,” said La Via. “It did not produce a negotiating grid that would help to take us forward with regard to numbers,” he added. According to an adopted timetable, the Council and the European Parliament have to reach an agreement through co-decision on a set of CAP reform regulations by the end of 2013 at the latest, paving the way for their entry into force on 1 January 2014.
Aletraris rejected out of hand the MEPs’ concerns about a possible delay in the CAP negotiating schedule during the Cypriot Presidency. “Cyprus is a very small state indeed,” he said. “But we believe that with a business-like approach we will be able to solve all difficulties.”
On other items on the Cyprus Presidency’s to-do list, Aletraris pledged to move forward work on the alignment of current legislation with the Lisbon Treaty, in particular in areas such as organic farming and the outermost regions, where some progress was already made during the Danish Presidency. He also pointed to potential advances in the areas of marketing standards and the promotion of agricultural products. On animal health, animal production and food products of animal origin, Aletraris said he expected the European Commission to come up with a range of “important legislative acts in the course of Cypriot Presidency,” including on the recast of stockbreeding, the standards for food and feed (the Commission’s proposal is due in October) and animal health (a series of proposals, including on plants and seeds, as well as on animal transport).
The meeting of the AGRI committee coincided with a protest by farmers, who demonstrated outside the European Parliament building against the drop in milk prices caused by overproduction (see
Europolitics4462). Referring to the protest, Georgios Papastamkos (EPP, Greece) called for changes to the policy on common agricultural markets, describing it as outdated and irrelevant to the current situation. His remarks were echoed by Luis Capoulas Santos (S&D, Portugal) and other MEPs. Commenting on the protest, Aletraris said that the issue will be put on the agenda of the forthcoming Council meeting, on 16 July, and that the Commission is expected to propose “special measures to stabilise the dairy market”.