Meeting in Brussels on September 20, 2011, the Council of the EU Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development could not reach an agreement on internal food aid.
This past April, the European Commission had received a ruling of the EU Court of Justice blocking 80 percent of the funds appropriated to the European Program of Food Aid to the most Deprived (PEAD). The Council of European Ministers of Agriculture was supposed to resolve the issue, but any decision has been once more postponed. Actually, six member states––Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherland and The Czech Republic––opposed a provision that would have prevented PEAD funding to be reduced to €113.5 million in 2012 from this year’s €480 million. These nations are pointing out that the agricultural surpluses, which underwrite the program, have practically disappeared, to the point of being replaced for the past few years by massive food purchases financed by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Yet, according to these same countries, such purchases have nothing to do with the CAP and should be a matter of social policies bankrolled by national governments.
According to Alain Seugé, President of the French Federation of Food Banks and Vice President of the European Federation, these cuts should lead to worrisome social consequences. “In France, the PEAD represents, depending on associations, 23 to 55 percent of food gathered. In Spain, it is 50 percent of the food bank supply; in Italy, two thirds and in Hungary, 90 percent.”
Dacian Ciolos, the EU Agriculture Commissioner, then proposed to keep the financing through the CAP for the next two years, while European social co-funding takes over in 2014.
The deadlock shows a lack of consistency in European strategy regarding the past and current reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy. These reforms have in fact led to a drastic cut in European agricultural stocks that does not seem to go hand in hand with pertinent thinking on the strategic nature of such reserves for EU food security.
In addition, and beyond different policy concepts or egoistical reflexes that worsen in times of crisis, we might question the reasons why the deadlock is breaking out when the European Union is experiencing the most serious global crisis in its history.
While the crisis in Greece and more widely the debt crisis are leading the member states to make extremely significant decisions regarding the future of the Union, one cannot imagine they will not find a solution, even an interim one, before year’s end. Otherwise, would it not be at the risk of further increasing the European citizens’ lack of understanding regarding the European Union usefulness?