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CAP reform - BEUC recommendations

25 September 2002, 19:45 CET

  1. We are very grateful to Minister Fisher Boel, president in office of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, for agreeing to meet a BEUC delegation and to communicate to her colleagues in Council our views on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.
  2. We want to see agriculture flourishing in Europe but in a manner that corresponds to consumers needs and wishes.
  3. The Common Agricultural Policy in its current form is unsustainable financially, socially, economically and environmentally. On behalf of our 34 independent national consumer organisation in 24 European countries we call for a profound reform of the CAP as a matter of urgency.
  4. Reform of the CAP is essential also to meet, and benefit fully from, the challenges posed by enlargement and the global trade negotiations.
  5. We welcome the Commission's Mid Term Review proposals as a small step in the right direction but they do not go far enough. We ask the Ministers of Agriculture meeting in Council to support these proposals and to go further and strengthen them.
  6. We welcome the proposal to shift (some) funds from the first to the second pillar but it does not go far enough.
  7. We welcome the principle of linking future payments to environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards. We call on the Commission and member states to develop effective and efficient policies to achieve these aims, including an auditing and monitoring programme. Independent consumer organisations must have an important role in this process. There must be concrete and verifiable results from the new de-coupled payments. If direct payments are not clearly seen to be achieving the desired results, they should be stopped. In the ongoing process of change, the aim should be to reduce direct payments as much as possible in favour of spending on rural development and other structural policies. This is particularly important in the context of enlargement.
  8. The promotion of good agricultural practice and environmentally sustainable agriculture should be the keystone of agricultural policy, in terms of priorities and allocation of resources. This means a shift of resources from payments linked to environment standards to policies that directly promote agri-environment measures. We favour more support for organic production but would stress the need to improve the sustainability of all agriculture.
  9. We heard yet again during the recent Johannesburg Summit how much damage is done to the developing world by agricultural subsidies in rich countries, including the EU. We ask the Commission and member states to make an immediate commitment to end export subsidies (and other forms of export supports including those incorporated in the sugar regime) as a matter of urgency.
  10. We call on the Member States to support changes in the EU decision-making process for agriculture and in particular to extend co-decision by the European Parliament to agricultural policy. This proposition is supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament and now needs only the approval of the national governments in Council. Agriculture should not be an exception to the decision making process for the general range of EU policies. At present we have co-decision at the "fork" stage of food policy but not at the "farm" stage.
  11. Food Safety, Quality, Consumer Choice and Nutrition
    • Whatever its origin, safe food is the first priority for consumers.
    • European consumers want more variety and choice in the food on offer. Organic products, small-scale products as well as standard products must co-exist on EU markets. GM products must not be introduced if they reduce consumer choice.
    • Consumers need to have clear information, advice and the means to choose the food they want. In particular they must have access to the necessary information, and the products, to make choices about healthy eating and nutrition. This has to encompass traceability, clear labelling and effective regulation of nutrition and health claims covering all food and food ingredients.
    • Nutritional factors should be taken into consideration in agricultural policy. Some products, while healthy in themselves, tend to make up too high a proportion of the average consumer diet. There is little sense in giving priority to increasing the production and consumption of such products. There is of course even less sense in promoting the production or consumption of products that are inherently unhealthy such as tobacco. Any public support for promoting consumption should be driven by dietary and health considerations and not as a means of supporting production or reducing surpluses.
    • The current barriers to access to the EU food market are too high and should be reduced (while continuing obviously to insist on the maintenance and enforcement of high standards of safety).
    • Consumers want to know more about how their food is produced and particularly about such subjects as production methods, animal welfare, and environmental and social factors and the factual basis for any claims made for food. Their right of access to this information must be reflected in EU and global policies.
BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, is the Brussels based federation of independent national consumer organisations from all the Member States of the EU and from other European countries. Our job is to try to influence, in the consumer interest, the development of EU policy and to promote and defend the interests of all European consumers.
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