French CAP plan nixed by Council

Today’s meeting of the Agriculture Council witnessed the frequently irrestistable force of French attachment to the Common Agricultural Policy run into the occasionally immovable object of UK, Swedish and new member state desire for change. The result was that a much-trumpeted French vision paper for the future of the CAP beyond 2013 was roundly rejected. In the end France used it’s presidential prerogative to adopt the paper as ‘Presidency conclusions’ but as such it has no political weight whatsoever. Some will remember that UK vision paper for the CAP lauched in the final weeks of its own EU presidency at the end of 2005 met a similar fate.

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20:20 vision

With the health check done and dusted, European agriculture policymakers turn to the bigger questions of the future of the CAP after the current EU financial perspective, which ends in 2013. Ever since the Chirac-Schroeder deal of 2002, which fixed the overall CAP budget and allocation of direct payments for the subsequent eleven years, there has been no serious debate about whether agriculture policy should continue to consume upwards of 50 billion euros a year and whether the current instruments are able to meet current and future challenges. To help shed light on the debate, the Institute for European Environment Policy has this week launched a new website, called CAP2020.

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Tangermann's parting shot

Later today Stefan Tangermann will step down as Director of the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate, a post he has held since 2002. The OECD has a strict ‘retire-at-65’ rule and it may surprise some to learn that the tall and spritely German, invariably sporting one of his trademark bow-ties, has reached such an age. Professor Tangermann has been a colossus among European agriculture policy analysts for at least two decades. Before taking the job at the OECD he was professor of agricultural economics at the University of Göttingen, having been appointed to that position in 1980.

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Tangermann’s parting shot

Later today Stefan Tangermann will step down as Director of the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate, a post he has held since 2002. The OECD has a strict ‘retire-at-65’ rule and it may surprise some to learn that the tall and spritely German, invariably sporting one of his trademark bow-ties, has reached such an age. Professor Tangermann has been a colossus among European agriculture policy analysts for at least two decades. Before taking the job at the OECD he was professor of agricultural economics at the University of Göttingen, having been appointed to that position in 1980.

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A little light relief

It’s Friday afternoon and it’s been a long week. What better to calm the nerves after all the excitement of the health check than to take a break by spending a few minutes playing a new online video game from the European Commission? It’s called Farmland: The Game and in it you will have to learn how to feed calves, take care of pigs in a pigsty and visit the henhouse to collect eggs. On the game’s more advanced levels you may be required to stamp out an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, fill out an IACS form and organise a delegation of farmers from your region to lobby the European Parliament.

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Commission did suppress cross compliance report, says MEP

A week ago I asked why a unfavourable report on cross compliance by the Court of Auditors, adopted on 4 November, has not yet been published. I wondered whether it had anything to do with the imminent end game of the health check negotiations, which featured propoals to further weaken cross compliance requirements. Turns out my hunch was correct. The Commission did not want the report to see the light of day, at least not until the health check was done and dusted, according to Paulo Casaca MEP.

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Podcast: the inside story on the health check deal

Roger Waite, Editor of Agra Facts, gives the inside story on the all-night negotiations that led to a deal early this morning (20th November) on the health check of the CAP. He explains how the negotiations were handled, that the big winners were Italy, Germany and France and that at key moments there was intervention from several heads of government. He also explains that the United Kingdom was joined by several of the new member states who were not able to fully endorse to the final agreement.

According to Roger the biggest surprises were a new milk fund and the decimation of the progressive element to its plan to redirect farm subsidies from direct aids to funds for farmland conservation and rural economic development.

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So who voted for what?

Unanimity, like pregnancy, has a binary quality. A decision can’t be ‘virtually unanimous’. But this is just how French farms minister Michel Barnier described this morning’s final compromise agreement on the health check package. So which of the EU 27 member states were unable to acquiesce in the deal? My sources tell Roger Waite tells me it was the UK plus three others (I assume Denmark, Sweden and perhaps the Netherlands or Estonia) Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia [update: and Estonia]. Can well-informed readers offer some further illumination?

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Parliament's health check recriminations begin

With the ink barely dry on the Council of Ministers’ final compromise deal on the health check, leading members of the European Parliament are laying into each other after a day of chaotic voting on the Parliament’s approach to the CAP. In a podcast interview yesterday, Paulo Casaca MEP (Socialist Group) told me that the Parliament was ‘lost’ and suffering from a lack of political leadership, something he thought could come from the Commission or from within the Parliament itself. Meanwhile Neil Parish MEP, chairman of the Agriculture Committee and a senior member of the right-leaning European Peoples Party – European Democrats grouping, voted against his own committee’s report and against the EPP-ED position.

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