The European Commission has presented proposals for the future of the Union’s agricultural policy. Read our interview with Czesław Siekierski, chair of Parliament’s agriculture committee.
The Commission published proposals on 29 November on how to future-proof the common agricultural policy (CAP), the EU’s oldest common policy. Included in the new strategy is a “tailor-made approach” where EU countries would have greater responsibility in choosing how and where to invest their CAP funding.
The primary goals of CAP are to ensure a stable, sustainably produced supply of safe food at affordable prices for Europeans, while also providing a decent standard of living for the Union’s farmers. Polish EPP member Czesław Siekierski, chair of Parliament’s agriculture committee, shares his views on the new proposals:
Why do we need to reform the common agricultural policy?
I do not think we need a new, comprehensive CAP reform but what is required are further adjustments and modernisation. The specific nature of agriculture requires an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach. Nothing in this sector changes overnight and the return of capital is very long.
There is a need to strengthen CAP’s ability to quickly respond to challenges, adapt to a rapidly changing world, for example in the field of trade agreements, digitalisation or new technological developments.
- Created in 1962, the common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the oldest polices of the European Union.
- The current CAP covers the period 2014-2020.
- The agri-food sector is one of Europe’s biggest. 22 million farmers and another 44 million jobs depend on agriculture.
- In its proposals on CAP reform, the Commission wants to move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a tailor-made one. EU countries will be able to pick their preferred options to achieve the goals set at EU level.
- The Commission stresses that the new proposals should not be seen as a step towards a renationalisation of CAP.
To address the local realities of farmers, the Commission would like to move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a tailor-made one. What is your opinion on this?
This is good approach because so far we have not been sufficiently taking into account how diverse Europe’s agricultural sector is. This diversity is a result of variances in climate, and historical or even political factors. Agriculture in the north is different to that in southern Europe. Agriculture in Finland is not the same as agriculture in France, not to mention Malta or the EU’s overseas territories.
The point is to pursue our common goals and values, but with different instruments in different EU countries. According to the proposals, the EU will propose targets, and then member states, which understand their own situation best, will propose how to implement them based on their capacities.
This is a difficult path. At first, it will not be easy for the member states to prepare these strategic plans, as they have never done so before. Analysing and evaluating these plans will also be difficult for the Commission. However, with some goodwill, I think we will all learn from it.
Are the proposals missing anything?
I think the basic problems of agriculture in the EU are not addressed sufficiently. Take for example the low incomes in the agricultural sector, half of which comes from EU funding. There is also the need for traditional forms of market intervention to ensure the sector’s stability, such as removing surplus production from the market. You also have the heavy workload involved, the ageing population, lack of interest in agriculture among young people, poor technical and social infrastructure in rural areas, and the industry’s dependence on weather conditions and market fluctuations.
Do you think the Commission's proposals will help improve the situation in agriculture?
Before its announcement, the European Commission ran a broad public consultation with farmers, consumers and NGOs, but we are still only at the beginning of this process. We will discuss these proposals to properly address them in the upcoming multiannual financial framework. It is not only a matter of money, although it is important, but also about comprehensive actions, because agriculture is related to other policies, such as cohesion, trade and the environment. This is why I think we need more dialogue.