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Commission proposals: so what happens next?

As DG Agriculture’s spokesman Michael Mann has been keen to stress over the past few days since the publication of the Commission’s communication on the CAP health check, this is just the start of the process of deliberation and debate. Dr Tamsin Cooper of the Institute for European Environmental Policy has written a useful briefing on the next steps in the process.

According to Tamsin,

Following the publication of the Commission’s Communication, a six-month period of debate and reflection is likely to ensue during which common positions and irreconcilable differences are likely to emerge. This will involve the Commission, in dialogue with stakeholders, the Member States and the European Parliament, prior to the tabling of formal legislative proposals by the Commission in May 2008. The views of stakeholders will be solicited through two stakeholder conferences to be held on 6 December 2007 and 11 January 2008. It is understood that participants representing a wide range of interests have been invited to the first conference, whereas the second event will focus on issues relating to the dairy sector.

EU Agriculture Ministers have already given their initial reactions to the proposals in the Agriculture Council meeting on earlier this week. The concepts of compulsory modulation and payment limits on direct aids are probably the most divisive issues for the Agriculture Council, with some member states remaining concerned about the impact of the end of milk quotas on dairy production in remote and marginal lands. French Farm Minister Michel Barnier made clear that a study about the CAP after 2013 would be published & discussed under the French Presidency.

Tamsin continues,

The Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament will prepare an ‘own initiative report’ to be written by the Committee’s Rapporteur, German MEP Lutz Goepel. The report will be informed by a hearing of experts on 27 November, and two subsequent technical studies on the two Pillars of the CAP, to be presented at the Committee’s meeting on 17 and 18 December. The report is scheduled for adoption by the Committee in February 2008, with a plenary vote penciled in for March. Following the publication of the Commission’s draft legislative proposals in May 2008, a second report will be drafted by the Committee under the consultation procedure. This report will provide the Committee’s Opinion on the legislative proposal and will be voted on at the Parliament’s Plenary. However, under the consultation procedure the Agriculture Council will not have to take account of the Opinion when it comes to adopt the legislation.

The work of the Commission is not finished, and an internal impact assessment of the proposals is currently underway. Working Groups within DG Agriculture will begin drafting the Regulations in early 2008, which will be circulated through the inter-service consultation process. Formal legislative proposals are expected in May 2008, with a view to reaching agreement within the Council before the end of 2008, during the French Presidency.

The role of the European Parliament in the health check is a big uncertainty. In the past, the Parliament has been largely excluded from debates and decision-making over the CAP, but with the new EU reform treaty granting greater powers to the Parliament, this situation cannot last indefinitely. Even though the new powers do not come into effect during the current Parliament which runs to 2009, there is an expectation that the Commission will have to pay closer attention to the views of the Parliament on the CAP if it wants the Parliament to ‘play ball’ elsewhere, for instance on the EU budget. Already there are signs of the Parliament developing concrete proposals of its own, rather than just being a source of ‘noises off’ as it has been in past debates on the future of the CAP. For example, German CDU MEP Lutz Goepel, the EP Agriculture Committee rapporteur on the health check, has already made an alternative proposal on payment limits. The Goepel plan for ‘progressive modulation’ would see a 1% reduction in all payments above €10 000 rising to a 4% cut for amounts above €300 000. The money saved would be transfered to rural development programmes. This would replace the Commission’s twin approach of compulsory modulation and a sliding scale of payment limits. I will be taking a closer look at this proposal very shortly to see how it compares to the Commission’s proposals but on a very first glance it looks considerably less ambitious than even the Commission’s plan – which is not altogether surprising given the EP Agriculture Committee’s longstanding opposition to reforming the CAP.

You can read Tamsin’s briefing in full here (PDF).

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