The European Commission wants to give national governments more flexibility in how they implement the EU’s common agriculture policy – a solution France strongly opposes.
Late November, the European Commission (EC) has presented its long-awaited vision for the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period 2021-2027. The CAP helps 22 million farmers and agricultural workers with income support and market measures and it ensures sustainable rural development according to the specific needs in each EU country.
EU member states and farmers often complain about the complexity of the CAP. Also, the EC called for “simpler rules and more flexible approach” that will “hand member states greater freedom” to decide how to invest EU funding. “This communication is the Commission saying ‘You keep telling us the CAP is too complicated, so administer it yourselves’,” explained Luc Vernet, senior advisor at the think tank Farm Europe.
“We have concluded that a one-size-fits-all approach to implementation is not always appropriate for a union of 500 million citizens,” said EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan. “We are taking the bold step to give member states more subsidiarity,” he added.
This plan to simplify and redistribute competences between the Union and the member states raised fears in France. Paris warned against the risk of a “renationalisation of the CAP”. In an unusually uncompromising stance Stéphane Travert, the French minister of agriculture said “the aid paid under the CAP must come from the European budget,” calling this issue “a red line for France”.
So far, the CAP budget has been divided between two ‘pillars’: first pillar aid, which is handed directly to farmers and accounts for about 80% of the total budget, has until now been piloted by Brussels; second pillar aid, which supports the EU’s rural development policy, is allocated by governments. There was some talk of changing that system in the upcoming CAP reform.
France is currently the largest recipient of funding under the EU’s CAP. Also, it has a lot to lose with a reform leading to a “renationalisation” of the CAP. Although, in support of French criticism, measures that encourage the renationalisation and regionalisation of the CAP too strongly could indeed cause inequalities and distortions in the market