Hyperactive French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week made a fundamental break with his predecessors, endorsing ‘radical reform’ of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, according to a report by Agence France Presse.
In a speech on agriculture policy delivered in the city of Rennes, President Sarkozy said that France would lead the process for reform when it takes over the rotating EU presidency for six months in the first half of 2008:
“The French presidency of the European Union will prepare a new political framework for our agriculture in Europe, based on fundamental principles… The CAP as it exists today can no longer respond to the challenges of post-2013. Everyone knows this, but nobody says it.”
France is currently the biggest recipient of farm subsidies in the EU, accounting for a shade over 20 per cent of the â‚¬56 billion a year policy. But as the new member states like Poland and Romania take an increasing share of the payments, France is on course to become a net-contributor shortly before the end of the current financial perspective (2007-2013). It is likely that this is the real motivation for President Sarkozy’s radicalism and post-2013, France will probably want to see more spending on farmers co-financed by individual member states rather than paid for out of a shared EU pot. This will not go down well with Brussels, although it is likely to be tempting to German Chancellor Merkel (Germany is the EU’s biggest paymaster) and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who would like to do away with the CAP altogether. Merkel and Brown are likely to be rather less taken with their French counterpart’s emphasis on maintaning high trade protection for European agriculture, which he referred to as ‘community preference’. He also spoke against decoupling and warned that the current WTO negotiations should not lead to a reduction in prices for European farmers.
Is that it is very hard to imagine any other European head of government making such a detailed speech on agriculture policy. Sarkozy may not have the detailed expertise in farm policy of his predecessor, but he is well aware of the importance of the farm vote in France.
Update: listen to the speech here: