France has played an extremely active role during the past few weeks to create a strong alliance aiming to save the status quo in the future of the CAP. Bruno Le Maire, the French Farm Minister has proved himself to be successful in persuading his German, Spanish and Italian colleague to help France maintaining the CAP as it is.
Starting on 30 January, Mr. Le Maire met Mario Catania, the Italian Farm Minister to discuss the future of the CAP. Both ministers declared the existence of a ‘strong convergence’ between French and Italian opinions in the debate and asserted that the two countries will safeguard each other’s interests in the main issues like fund distribution or the ‘milk package’ in the future.
Having Italy as an ally, Mr. Le Maire moved further to Germany to meet his colleague Ilse Aigner to discuss the Commission’s proposals for the future CAP. The outcome is a two-page declaration nearly stating that the CAP should remain as it is. Highlights well describing French and German positions in the future include the need for greater flexibility for Member States to take decisions, the call for limited redistribution of direct payments as well as a stable and strong budget, doubts on the feasibility and workability of the greening proposals, the need for cutting the red-tape and the creation of simpler and better adapted market management instruments.
A week later, on 15 February, Mr. Le Maire met Spanish Farm Minister Miguel Arias Cañete to continue his successful alliance-building journey. The outcome is a franco-spanish statement, which differs little in content from the franco-german one. Besides common slogans, it wants to defend the CAP Budget from cutting, seeks to extend sugar quotas to 2020 and planting rights to 2015, calls for a fair redistribution of direct payments limited in volume and finds the 30% greening and 7% ecological focus too high.
Meanwhile, COPA-COGECA finalised and published a reaction paper to the Commission’s ideas on 16 February, calling for a complete overhaul of the proposals for making the CAP more environmentally friendly. The paper argues, inter alia, that farmers must be free to choose environmental practices that best suit their land, it questions any limits on direct payments as well as calls for a gradual change to the payment system.
The future of the CAP seems to be dependent on political decision on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework, expected to be made well after the French Presidential elections (second round on 6 May). However, due to the successful French diplomacy, it appears that nothing important will change in the CAP post-2013 with so many ‘heavyweight players’ inside the new alliance.