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Barroso CAP Vision: Motherhood & apple pie

Just as it’s hard to love Commission President José Manuel Barroso, it’s hard to loathe him. Maybe that’s why he’s the ultimate compromise candidate and has just secured a second five year term of office. President Barroso has just published political guidelines for the next Commission, setting out his stall for a ‘2020 vision’ of the EU.

There is a short section on agriculture policy:

“Europe has a long and proud history as an agricultural producer. Thanks to the efforts of her farmers, a common policy and the investments made in technology, education, research and market development the EU is not only able to feed itself but has become an important agricultural exporter. Agriculture will continue to have an important place in Europe’s future development, not only in ensuring food security, preserving the environment and cherishing the countryside, but also in facing new challenges such as
climate change while providing a fair standard of living for farmers. But it needs to adapt. Just as the common agricultural policy has proved able to transform itself in recent years, there is a need to decide on the future needs and role of agriculture and rural development in the EU 2020 vision and to gear public investment and innovation efforts to deliver a thriving rural economy.”

If, as some have said, there’s a major reform of the CAP brewing in the Commission, to be launched in the second half of 2010, you’d never know it from that passage, would you?

However, read on in the prospectus a few pages to the section on the future EU budget and things get a bit more crunchy:

“We will have to re-shape the EU budget to respond to the new priorities. This will require a root and branch reform of the EU budget. The defining moment for this will be the preparation of the 2014+ Multiannual Financial Framework. I want to use the upcoming budget review as a stepping stone for this exercise.”

This suggests that reports of the death of the budget review are greatly exaggerated. Is “root and branch reform” Brussels code for taking an axe to the 45 per cent of the budget spent on farm subsidies? By Barroso’s own admission, agreeing changes to how the EU budget is raised and spent is very difficult:

“While everyone agrees in the abstract on the need for reform, as soon as the debate moves to concrete measures, there seems to be a strong bias in favour of the status quo.”

He’s not wrong. In his first term as Commission President Barroso, every bit the compromise candidate and keen to secure a second term of office, was careful not to rock the boat. Will we see a new Barroso in a second and presumably final term?

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