Many people are under the impression that the Commission’s Health Check Communication proposes that all Member States should move towards a flat rate regional single payment system. There is a widespread view that the Health Check would require those Member States which opted for the historic basis to begin to move towards a regional system between 2009 and 2013.
In fact, the Health Check makes a much more limited proposal. What it states is:
..the individual level of support in both approaches, albeit to different extents, is currently based on past levels of production and as time goes by it will become more difficult to justify differences in this support, especially in the historic model. It seems therefore appropriate to allow MS to adjust their chosen model towards a flatter rate during the period from 2009 to 2013. Against this background it should also be considered whether Member States which are applying now the SAPS, should be allowed to continue so until 2013. (italics added)
Mrs Fischer Boel, in her 6 December 2007 speech explaining the Health Check, put it this way:
…it’s important that we could allow certain Member States to reduce differences between individual farmers’ decoupled payments within their territory. This may be relevant particularly to those Member States which have chosen the so-called “historical” model of the Single Payment Scheme. Allowing Member States to move towards a model with a “flatter” rate is partly about fairness. But it’s also about public acceptance of the payments. Because in the long term, no-one will understand why large differences between decoupled payments are due exclusively to production decisions taken in the reference period of 2000 to 2002.
The Commission may indeed favour greater use of the regional flat-rate model. However, the language in the Health Check Communication is simply that the Commission would allow countries currently using the historic model to change to the regional one. The Irish Farmers’ Journal claims that “there seems to be some discussion within the Commission on whether member states should be actually obliged to move to at least start a flat rate payment system before 2013. This will be part of the debate over the next year or so.”
Interviewed on Irish radio last week (the interview starts at the 18.00 min point in this 30 minute radio programme), however, Mrs Fischer Boel was quite clear that if Ireland (which is one of the Member States which adopted the historic basis) did not want to move away from the historic payment model, then it would not be required to do so.