As preparations are being made for the CAP “health check,”1 close to 300 members of France’s Parliament, from diverse backgrounds, have challenged Ms. Fischer Boel on the implications of the Commission’s planned reforms for the dairy industry2. In an open letter sent to the European Commissioner for Agriculture on July 9, the parliamentarians express their concern over the planned elimination of regulatory mechanisms in a move toward an ever-increasing liberalization of the markets.
Using the dairy industry as an example, these parliamentarians defend the idea of a lasting Common Agricultural Policy that would promote an increase in balanced trade both within the Common Market and between the European Union and third countries. They oppose the idea that free competition alone should determine its future: food sovereignty, promoting high-quality agriculture, maintaining vibrant rural life and conserving rural land are all challenges that cannot be put aside in favor of economic doctrine alone.
By publishing the letter here in full, WoAgri expresses its support of these parliamentarians, whose arguments are in line with those espoused by our movement since its inception.
2007 is set to be a pivotal year.
It will determine the future of our Common Agricultural Policy. The different Common Market Organizations are set to merge into a sole system, preparations will begin for the planned 2008 health check and a report will be drafted by your team on the dairy industry’s quota system.
These events are testament to the vitality of our Common Agricultural Policy and should be seen as an opportunity for genuine debate within the Union. A debate that involves all Member States. A democratic debate that involves the European Parliament. A civic debate that fully involves civil society, including consumers and economic players from the relevant industries.
This democratic debate should give fresh impetus to agriculture in Europe, bringing it in line with the extension of Europe’s founding Treaties and Europe’s collective interest.
France’s dairy industry is delighted to have an opportunity to make a constructive contribution to these efforts.
Madam Commissioner, your recent statements have nonetheless raised our concern.
Many of your remarks suggest that the Commission, without any preliminary consultations or cooperation with other Community institutions, has already predetermined the outcome of the coming reforms.
It also appears that the Commission has already decided to cease managing the markets and to shirk its responsibility while hiding behind abstruse budgetary rules. It furthermore appears that, after providing partial compensation for these support measures via direct assistance to agricultural producers, the Commission has already spelled their death for beyond the year 2013.
Many of your remarks suggest that the Commission has already decided to dismantle one of the basic underlying principles of the Treaty of Rome, as such abandoning any ambitions for a European agriculture.
These recurring remarks, relayed by certain Member States, lead one to believe that the only prospect for farmers and the European agrifood industries is entering into competition with the world’s various economic and social models, thereby negating their diversity.
We do not agree with this vision.
Admittedly, Europe’s dairy industry is and must remain an economically competitive industry. After 22 years of perfecting production techniques, the industry, as you well know, currently produces the most dairy in the world, with 130 billion liters. The industry’s worldwide leaders are European.
It nonetheless cannot be limited to just that.
Dairy production is a long-standing tradition in many countries, centered in regions often characterized by extremely difficult economic and social conditions, and as such constitutes one of the mainstays of the rural life and landscapes so dear to our fellow citizens. The industry brings rhythm and vitality to life in our villages.
Today, 400,000 individuals from across all of France’s regions make their livelihoods from dairy.
The products themselves also reflect a diversity that has developed from expertise often handed down through the generations. The products are healthy, appreciated by consumers and developed by a competitive and innovative industry.
Finally, this industry represents a domestic market that is highly valued, self-sufficient and reliable, where over 90% of European milk is sold. Exemplary collective discipline makes it highly adaptable, since a slight over-production of milk could cause prices to plummet.
This precarious yet dynamic equilibrium, rooted in a history shared by several Member States, is possible because the rules of the game are stable, clear and identical for all. Quite simply, it is thanks to a bona fide Community dairy policy.
In our eyes, allowing this strong common policy to disintegrate solely to promote competition with countries that, in practice, apply their own rules, is out of the question. International trade accounts for only six percent of production.
We, members of France’s Parliament, therefore formally request that you defend the very heart of this policy of market regulation and protection while considering, in your future work and remarks, that the future of Europe’s dairy industry extends beyond the world market.”