President. − The next item is the report by Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the Committee on Development, on an EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges (2010/2100(INI)) - (A7-0284/2011).
Gabriele Zimmer, rapporteur. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in an appeal initiated by African and European writers regarding the famine in the Horn of Africa it is stated that those suffering do not need sympathy, they need their rights as citizens of this world to be realised. Like people everywhere else, they have rights, which also include the right to food in accordance with Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the Horn of Africa, 12.5 million people are currently being deprived of their right to life and to food security. In Somalia alone, more than 30 000 children under five have died in recent months. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the current estimate of the number of people who are suffering from hunger worldwide is already over a billion once again.
In drawing up the report that we have before us today, the members of the Committee on Development were guided by two premises: the first was the question of whether the European Union is taking adequate responsibility to ensure that those in the world suffering from hunger have direct access to food – that can also be extended to clean drinking water and a supply of energy. The second was: how will the European Union ensure the necessary coherence between its policies in order to succeed in its development policy objectives on the basis of Articles 7 and 208 of the Treaty of Lisbon?
In view of the two Commission communications from last year on the EU policy framework to assist developing countries and on humanitarian food assistance, I can say that the Commission has laid down a number of premises that we as a committee support, but that we are of the opinion that the approaches taken in many areas are still inadequate. It is not sufficiently clear, for example, how the necessary coherence between all relevant policy areas is to be ensured, and how, in particular in international trade policy, the appropriate adjustments are to be made in connection with the reform of the common agricultural policy. One crucial deficiency that remains is the fact that the fight against hunger in the world is afforded nothing like the necessary priority status on the political agendas of international institutions, including that of the European Union.
Famines rarely develop overnight. There are many causes. There is no point in listing them all here. Our report makes them very clear. It is clear that climate change, speculation on the stock markets and price volatility, which we have to get our heads around, land-grabbing and unfair trade policy have a negative impact first and foremost on the very poorest people – on refugees, the poor, the elderly and vulnerable women and children.
In our report, we have focused on three main points. Firstly, we support – and we would like to develop this point further – a human rights-based approach as the general framework for food security. Enforcement of the human right to food must be at the top of the political agendas, and we need monitoring mechanisms in order to check that the right to food is being applied in practice.
Sustainable agriculture based on small, independent farms with low external inputs holds out the possibility of a solution in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. For this, investment in agriculture needs to be substantially increased. The same applies to specific measures for ensuring global food security, as well as to the fight against speculation and uncontrolled land purchase. The scale of uncontrolled land acquisition is far greater than previously thought. The latest figures we have received, in relation to Uganda, for example, reveal over 22 000 instances of people being driven from their land because the land has been bought up by British timber companies.
The third major point is that we need the appropriate policy coherence that we are calling for, so that, at the end of the day, we do not have a situation where we have development policy on the one hand, with funds being poured into it, and agricultural policy and trade policy on the other hand cancelling out precisely what development policy is trying to achieve. In this regard, there is still a great deal to be done. I would ask for your support for the report in tomorrow’s vote.
Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE). – (RO) Madam President, in addition to being an increasingly serious humanitarian problem, the global food crisis poses a major threat to peace and security worldwide. The ever-growing threat of food speculation, climate change, biofuels, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and pressures on water resources are the main causes of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity.
I welcome the clear political choice to propose the right to food as a cornerstone of the European Union’s policy framework. Ensuring food security requires coherence and coordination of the various sectoral policies at EU level, namely development policy, the common agricultural policy, the common trade policy, energy policy and research programmes.
Additionally, the European Union and partner countries should establish transparent monitoring mechanisms, including the participation of civil society organisations and local authorities, in order to guarantee that right to food policies will be properly implemented.
Eduard Kukan (PPE). - (SK) Madam President, food security in developing countries, particularly in certain parts of Africa, must be regarded as a challenge that requires a rapid solution. Millions of people are hungry, and that cannot be acceptable to the EU. If we do not change, we face the threat of negative humanitarian and security impacts on a global scale.
The response of the international community has so far been slow and insufficient. EU Member States must fundamentally increase their involvement in the transformation of humanitarian aid into development aid and a development policy. First and foremost, this involves the development of agriculture and rural areas. In the long term, a key task will be to support education programmes with the widest possible access for all those who need it. The launch of these regular education programmes should provide an effective way of getting out of this dead end street and avoiding going down it again.
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, food security in developing countries is literally a matter of life and death, as can be seen from the current situation in Africa. It is the moral obligation of the Union to act and to choose the right form of assistance.
I am in favour of EU assistance being targeted at the sustainable small-scale production of food, in order to increase its availability. Agriculture still forms the basis of the rural economy throughout the developing world. There is a need to rework agricultural production systems and move away from current systems that are too dependent on external inputs and oil.
There is a need to focus much more on local and regional conditions. Special attention must be paid to women and their needs, because they account for the majority of small farmers. At the same time, I would like to draw attention to the role of speculators on commodity markets and their contribution to rising food prices and thus to reduced availability of food, which has disastrous results. This amounts to an urgent reason why the Commission ought to focus on regulation of the financial sector.
Franziska Keller (Verts/ALE). - Madam President, I would like to thank the rapporteur for her excellent report. I believe that agriculture is one of the main policy areas that concerns policy coherence for development and, indeed, where that coherence is usually contradicted.
Indeed, we are not feeding the world at the moment, owing to the way that our agricultural policy is designed, and we should not. Food production should happen mostly at local level. We should not try to compete on the global market via our European agricultural policy. We should not focus on competition – quite the opposite: we should enable developing countries to feed themselves.
What are we doing at the moment, though? Our meat production is 72%-dependent on soya imports – that is around 20 million hectares worth. Overall we export some 40 million hectares worth of our production, but we also import 49 million hectares worth. We are not feeding the world; we are starving it. Our external efforts need to be complemented by internal reforms.
Joao Ferreira (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Madam President, the discussion of a strategic framework for helping developing countries meet the challenges of food security is clearly necessary and welcome; moreover it is inseparable, as the rapporteur rightly points out in her report, from the debate on coherence between this objective of food security in developing countries and the sectoral policies of the European Union, in particular, its agricultural, commercial and energy policies, to name only three.If truth be told, there exists today a flagrant and manifest disjunction between these sectoral policies and said objective of food security. Free trade, the promotion of intensive-production, export-oriented models that are threatening and wrecking small and medium-sized farming and family farming, the use of, and pressure to use, fertile soil for other purposes that compete with food production – all those things threaten the food sovereignty of developing countries, which is in separable from their food security. The greater a country’s food dependence, the greater its food insecurity, and the more difficult it becomes to provide its people with sufficient, good-quality food.
Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE). – (EL) Madam President, one of the issues we are considering today is how to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges and, to add to what my colleagues have said, on the one hand, we are designing policies – today we are debating Ms Zimmer’s excellent report, for which we thank her, and we have heard from the Commission about its overall plans and initiatives – while, on the other hand, the Commission issued a communication on 10 May in which it stated that it was considering cutting the countries which enjoy the scheme of generalised tariff preferences by over half.
I understand fully the point of that communication and I have examined it. However, I should like the Commission to answer this question: how do these Commission communications fit in with our commitment to increasing aid to developing countries?
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - (SK) Madam President, food security is a long term problem in developing countries. Recurrent famines destroy the populations of these countries, and it is mainly women and children that are affected by famine. Of the measures in the report for ensuring basic food security in developing countries, the focus on retaining the rights of local people to hold on to agricultural land is, in my opinion, important.
The massive takeover of land by foreign agricultural investors will lead to growing poverty among the local population, as well as displacement, starvation and uncontrolled migration. Weak and corrupt governments deprive their people of the right to sustenance, access to drinking water and access to food. In my opinion, it is worth considering a resumption of the dialogue on international rules on the acquisition of arable land. The EU, thanks to its humanitarian policies, has a moral right to raise this issue with the international community.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Commission. − Madam President, I would like to thank Ms Zimmer for her report and all the honourable Members of the Parliament for their interventions on this very important topic. I am very glad that Ms Zimmer welcomes the Commission’s communication on an EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges from March 2010. I am pleased that she shares many of the policy priorities of the EU policy framework on food security.
You may also be aware that the recent public debate on the future of EU development policy has clearly identified agriculture and food and nutrition security as the key areas in which the EU should promote inclusive and green growth. Food and nutrition security remains a top priority for the European Commission, and the Commission remains fully committed to supporting its partners in stepping up investments to achieve food security. We believe that there is much potential to be utilised in developing countries to speed up progress towards the MDGs.
Stepping up effort is becoming ever more pressing as we continue to face mounting challenges. The current situation in the Horn of Africa provides the most recent and harrowing justification that now, more than ever, we must act together and provide a response both to the immediate crisis and to longer-term food security in the Horn and worldwide. This is the only way to promote food and nutrition security in a sustainable manner for the most vulnerable populations and to increase their resilience. Agricultural research for development has been a priority as well and it will continue to be one.
In response to concerns raised in the motion for a resolution regarding the contribution of financial speculation to excessive price volatility, I would like to underline that the Commission is looking into the role of speculation on the level and volatility of food prices. In any event, we must encourage better market transparency in order to contribute to the better functioning of markets and to be able to react quickly and in a coordinated manner. Let me assure you that the Commission is carefully monitoring the situation of rising food prices and the effects on developing and vulnerable economies, and is going to take action.
The reviews of two important pieces of legislation in financial markets regulation – the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and the Market Abuse Directive – are currently underway and the Commission’s proposals are expected this autumn. Measures will be targeted at enhancing the transparency, integrity and stability of financial markets, which also includes agricultural derivatives markets. In addition, food and nutrition assistance should be as efficient and as effective as possible.
The Commission has just signed a statement of intent that will enhance cooperation between the Commission and the three Rome-based UN agencies. The Commission also shares the concerns of Parliament that secure access to land and secure land tenure and user rights should not be jeopardised by large-scale land acquisitions. Effective national land policies and laws are essential, requiring governments to take priority action on land. In this regard, the Commission supports the development and application of appropriate land policies and international guidelines.
The Commission believes that sustainable fisheries and aqua-culture also have an important role to play in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. I can assure you that these will remain development cooperation priorities and I am pleased that we share views on this.
Finally, the Commission will be present at the big hearing on food security that Parliament is organising next week.
President. − The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 27 September 2011).
Written statements (Rule 149)
Jim Higgins (PPE), in writing. – Firstly I would like to raise concern regarding paragraph 63 which calls for the phasing-out of export subsidies and other incentives in the CAP. I will vote against. Many imported agriculture products are non-sustainable and the phasing out of CAP incentives would kill local EU production, which is a stated aim of the rapporteur. It would put EU agriculture at a complete disadvantage. The EU agri-industry must comply with extremely stringent safety regulations; without subsidies we cannot expect the industry to compete with imports and so we would start a race to the bottom of the food chain! I welcome the steps this report takes to highlight food wastage. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that there were 925 million hungry people in the world in 2010. Meanwhile in Europe about 89 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. That is 179 kg per person! This is a situation which cannot be allowed to continue. Our colossal wastage of food represents our inefficient use and management of food resources; successful commitments to fight poverty and hunger worldwide must begin by addressing our terrible wastage of food. Our right to food must be accompanied with a duty not to waste food.
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE), in writing. – (FI) I wish to thank the rapporteur, Ms Zimmer, for an important and excellent report. Nevertheless, I would further underline the role of women as guarantors of food security, because, without these women, many of whom are often smallholder farmers, food security in the developing countries would be in a much worse shape than it is today.
The development of women’s rural businesses faces numerous problems. Women benefit from training, new technologies and help in developing their businesses less frequently than men. Women’s rights to collect debts and own property are not as strong as those of men. The extent to which women participate in decision-making at the local and national level is limited. Although women produce most of the food in developing countries, they own only a fraction of the land. The EU must make much greater use of development assistance for agriculture, not forgetting equality. Agriculture is the largest employer and an effective way to reduce poverty.
Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE), in writing. – (FI) At present, we are in the middle of one of the worst food crises in our history. The number of starving people is still at an alarming level, owing to critical drought, speculation on the price of food, and reduced biodiversity. The crisis calls for immediate measures. While we tackle what is an acute problem, however, we must also take the longer-term view.
One problem, about which we still speak all too little, relates to the exploitation of arable land in the developing countries. The unregulated exploitation of arable land has helped reduce opportunities for sustainable development, especially in several African countries. For the EU to establish more sustainable food security in the poorest countries, we need political action that will safeguard the right to work of local people, guarantee the production of adequate supplies of food to meet each country’s needs, reduce corruption, and ensure, while taking environmental considerations into account, that arable land is controlled by a country’s own citizens.
We need international norms to strengthen social development. The EU should take an active role, within the context of both its own development cooperation strategy and its multilateral negotiations, to achieve a more sustainable land ownership policy.