Barnier et son 'B-Team' s'installent un camp de base à Bruxelles

With the Slovenian Presidency of the EU barely a month old, the French government is already limbering up for its defense of the CAP during the Health Check and the budget review when France takes the helm of the EU in the second half of 2008. Farms minister Michel Barnier is here in Brussels all this week along with his ‘B-Team’: a 22-strong crack unit of Paris-based diplomats and civil servants on a mission to familiarize themselves with EU institutions, places and faces and to plot with old allies in the battle against reform such as those reactionary dinosaurs at COPA-COGECA and their more youthful offspring.

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Barnier et son ‘B-Team’ s’installent un camp de base à Bruxelles

With the Slovenian Presidency of the EU barely a month old, the French government is already limbering up for its defense of the CAP during the Health Check and the budget review when France takes the helm of the EU in the second half of 2008. Farms minister Michel Barnier is here in Brussels all this week along with his ‘B-Team’: a 22-strong crack unit of Paris-based diplomats and civil servants on a mission to familiarize themselves with EU institutions, places and faces and to plot with old allies in the battle against reform such as those reactionary dinosaurs at COPA-COGECA and their more youthful offspring.

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Agriculture Ministers hold first discussions on Health Check

Agriculture Ministers had their first discussion of the Commission’s Health Check proposals at the first Council meeting under the Slovenian Presidency yesterday. It appears that the two issues causing the most fuss are the Commission’s suggestions to introduce a progressive reduction in single farm payments to larger farms (inaccurately referred to as capping) and to increase the rate of compulsory modulation (which again would only affect larger farms), in both cases with the additional funds going to Pillar 2 rural development measures. At the same time, Ministers were clearly taken by the emphasis on risk management and safety nets in the Commission Communication and called for more specific proposals in this area.

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Is EU biofuels policy worth the candle?

The Commission will announce next Wednesday (January 23rd) its proposals on how it intends to allocate the burden of cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and of increased use of renewables among Member States. Its draft Directive (so far without the crucial percentage shares) reiterates the mandatory target that biofuels should account for 10 per cent of transport fuels in the EU-27 by 2020. There has been intense lobbying by industries, environment groups and member states in the run-up to this announcement. However, there is increasing scepticism that its biofuel plans make much sense in the context of its climate change targets, and environmental groups have called for the target to be abandoned.

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Getting decisions on the Health Check

With 27 member states the whole negotiating process in the Farm Council has become a lot more difficult, not that it was ever easy. Another complication is that fisheries matters are also dealt with in the Farm Council and this means that the December meeting is the scene for an inevitable battle between fisheries ministers over quotas.

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Goepel plan: weak, weak, weak

The European Parliament’s agriculture committee published a working paper on the CAP health check at the end of last year. Tamsin Cooper and Martin Farmer at IEEP have already argued that from an environmental perspective it lacks ambition and is internally inconsistent. I have looked in detail at the working paper’s proposals for ‘progressive modulation’ which is put forward as an alternative to both the Commission’s proposals on payment limits and increased compulsory modulation.

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European Parliament’s View of the Health Check Holds Little Promise for the Environment

The European Parliament is seeking an outcome to the CAP Health Check that does not compromise the competitiveness of EU farming or diminish the value of farm subsidy receipts. This is the vision presented in a working document drafted by German MEP Lutz Goepel of the Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The paper acknowledges the need for some evolution of the CAP, but presents a sometimes inconsistent set of suggestions, a number of which are likely to run counter to arguments in favour of promoting a more environmentally sustainable CAP. The paper is examined in further detail below.

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