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CAP reform must benefit society as a whole, say MEPs

MEPs agreed with the European Commission on Monday that EU common agricultural policy reform plans must be shaped with the help and backing of EU citizens, to ensure that the post-2013 CAP benefits society as a whole. Key issues in the reform debate will include how best to ensure that EU farming methods are economically and environmentally sustainable, and also that EU Member States all get fair shares of CAP funding, they added.

Parliament's draft resolution by George Lyon (ALDE, UK) on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013 was presented on Monday and debated for the first time by MEPs and the Commission, under the new institutional framework set out in the Lisbon Treaty.

Society-wide debate

"Before the reform, we need to bring the citizens into this debate", said Agriculture Commissioner Dacien Ciolos, stressing that the key issues will be why a CAP is needed, what it should aim to achieve, and what policy tools it should use. "Setting principles and priorities" should be the aim of this debate, said Mr Lyon, agreeing with Mr Ciolos that the reform debate, launched on Monday and lasting until June, should first settle "the big picture, before going into details".

Sustainability vital

Economic and environmental sustainability "must be at the heart" of the new CAP, said Mr Lyons, agreeing with Mr Ciolos that food security, resource management and "green growth" will be key challenges for the post-2013 CAP.

Reform must also ensure that CAP aid is distributed more fairly among EU Member States and boosts their productive efficiency, to enable them to compete with EU's "well-subsidised trading partners", said Mr Lyon, adding that a "minimum safety net" to cushion the impact of extreme market volatility should also be central to the new policy. Mr Ciolos stressed the need to take account of differences among the EU's regional agricultural models, but added that this should not become a pretext for "reactivating national policies".

Maintain funding

The "current level of CAP funding needs to be maintained after 2013" to "ensure farmers have a future after 2013", said Albert Dess (EPP, DE), welcoming Mr Lyon's draft text. Luis Capoulas Santos (S&D, PT), voiced support for the "green aspects" of Mr Lyons' paper and agreed with Mr Dess that "we cannot accept anything less than at present". But Mr Capoulas Santos also criticised Mr Lyon's paper, for its "too weak" references to the Single Payment Scheme and WTO negotiations.

Fairer shares

"There are more problems than those identified", one of which is how to achieve "a fair distribution of support within the different agricultural sectors", noted Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE ). Mr Häusling also felt that the climate change issue was not fully addressed in Mr Lyon's draft paper, and that "competitiveness" should be "better defined".

"We need a strong CAP for the future" and "support from the public" agreed committee vice-chair Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR, PL). However, he wondered whether the best way to ensure that all Member States get fair shares of CAP aid is to cut the entire CAP budget, or to increase it.

Not just competitiveness

Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL, FR) agreed with the paper's key ideas, but warned that its emphasis on competitiveness risked benefiting large multinationals to the detriment of small entities. "Urgent measures need to be taken" to help the farming sector out of current crisis, he added.

Next steps

The Agriculture Committee should vote on the CAP reform resolution in June, and the plenary vote is scheduled for July. The resolution will contribute to the general debate before the Commission puts forward its ideas, by the end of 2010.

Draft report on the future of CAP after 2013

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