Setting strategic objectives before the budgetary framework
In a joint declaration published at the close of French Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier’s visit to Hungary on November 5, the two European countries urged Europe to “set its objectives first, before providing the budgetary framework” for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), recalling that “the sustainability of Europe’s agricultural and agrifood sectors depends on a strong common agricultural policy.”
In anticipation of the “CAP Health Check” paper, to be published by the European Commission on November 20, Paris and Budapest have thus joined the ranks of six other European countries1 that last week expressed, through their respective Ministers of Agriculture, that it would be “a serious error to believe, as some European countries do, that the budget for the CAP must be slashed first, and that the debate over the future of agriculture and subsidies should begin only afterward.”
“Overall, France and Hungary are on the same wavelength,” declared Michel Barnier, after meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Jozsef Graf, representatives and Vice Presidents of the Agricultural and European Affairs Committees of Hungary’s parliament, and Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany during his trip.
France and Hungary’s joint statement reaffirms the three major founding principles behind the CAP – financial solidarity, market unity and community preference – and insists on the need for the CAP to “meet the objectives that will be set for it.” First and foremost, that means ensuring “the European Union’s food security and independence, contributing to global food balances, preserving rural areas, helping combat climate change and contributing to improving the environment.”
“The European Union cannot be the ‘banker of the Doha Round’”
Regarding the multilateral negotiations underway at the World Trade Organization, Paris, currently aligned with Budapest, has reaffirmed a position it had already clarified in a press release issued in the days following Michel Barnier’s trip to Washington D.C.
In meetings with various officials from the United States federal government and Congress, France’s minister underlined that France “could not accept an imbalanced deal” and expressed regret that the United States was preparing “more or less to extend the traditional Farm Bill supports” even though the European Union had launched far-reaching CAP reforms in 2003. Stressing the need for a balanced, reciprocal and comprehensive deal, Michel Barnier refuses to accept a situation in which the European Union would become “the banker of the Doha Round.”
While a positive outcome of the Doha Round appears improbable to say the least,2the European Union should take advantage of this break in the WTO negotiations and the CAP health check, to refocus its agricultural policy on its primary objectives – fundamentals that cannot be left by the wayside in favor of mere budgetary arguments.
| 1 Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Cyprus and Greece. See the “A Look at the News” item, CAP: Setting Objectives before the Budget, dated October 29, 2007. |
2 Publication of the compromise version for agriculture, originally slated for early November, has moreover been pushed back to the end of the month.