European Parliament weighs in on health check

On Monday 14 July the European Parliament agriculture committee will discuss its response to the Commission’s legislative proposals for the CAP health check. The committee’s rapporteur is Luis Capoulos Santos, a Portuguese socialist MEP and former Portuguese Minister for Agriculture. His working document, suggests a number of changes to the Commission proposals, notably a hard ceiling of 500,000 euros on CAP payments to individuals, in addition to a ‘progressive modulation’ that would see payments above 100,000 euros top-sliced to provide additional funding for the EU’s farmland conservation and rural policies.

The working paper prefaces its own proposals with some observations about the CAP and the reform process. Mr Capoulos Santos is critical of the lack of ambition in the Commission’s proposals:

“The boundary which the commission wished to place around the debate on the ‘health check’ (leaving out in particular topics such as the legitimacy of aid and the setting of parameters for as common a model as possible of decoupled payments, the degree of management flexibility which should be granted to the Member States, modulation vs co-financing, the possibility of a ‘single pillar’ and the role of market regulation within the new CAP) will complicate the debate and the decisions concerning the 2013 reform, discussions on which will have to begin in 2010/2011.”

Capoulos Santos’s inference is that the CAP, even after the health check, will be ill-prepared for 2009, with the heady mix of the EU budget review, the revision of the Kyoto Protocol and the conclusion of the WTO Doha Round.

The working paper proposes more modest rates of progressive modulation which would cut the money available under the Commission’s proposals for farm-based land conservation and farm-based rural development policies (known collectively as the ‘second pillar’ of the CAP). Capoulos Santos recognises this shortfall and suggests that an expanded Article 68 be used on a voluntary basis by member states who wish to direct funds towards these new policy priorities.

It is important to remember that with the Irish ‘no’ vote on the Lisbon Treaty putting in doubt the prospect of introducing co-decision by the European Parliament on agricultural policy, the Parliament merely acts in an advisory role and has no legislative powers.

A full set of documents relating to the Parliament’s proposals on the health check is available here.

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