The European Policy Centre (EPC) think tank, in cooperation with the World Wide Fund (WWF) European Policy Office, organised a Policy Dialogue on 14 February, on the topic of ‘What future for the Common Agricultural Policy?’ The European Public Health & Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) contributed to the debate highlighting the messages of the public health community towards the ongoing CAP reform.

Discussions on the common agricultural policy (CAP) are already heated, with different vested interests arguing over how funds should be distributed and how robust any ‘greening’ of the CAP should be.

The European Council has accepted a compromise agreement on the EU budget for 2014-2020, at the Summit held between 7-8 February 2013, and the AGRI Committee voted on its position between 23-24 March 2013.

The policy Dialogue examined the following questions:

  • What share of spending will be allocated to the CAP, which is traditionally the largest single beneficiary of the EU budget?
  • How can any new common agricultural policy be brought in line with the EU’s political ambitions to promote a more sustainable economy and what measures must be taken to make the agricultural sector economically and environmentally sustainable?

“The new agricultural policy shall be competitive not only in Europe but also at global level. The future CAP policy will certainly have an impact on the EU-US free-trade negotiations,” said Herman Versteijlen, Director for Common Market Organisations for Agricultural Products, Directorate-General for Agriculture, European Commission.

Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy, Trinity College Dublin considered the current status of greening of CAP as a missed opportunity but considered that some flexibility is feasible so that the greening measures can be in line with the general budget.

Shelby Matthews, Chief Policy Advisor at COPA-COGECA highlighted that farmers would also like to have a climate-friendly, green CAP but it would also need to be economicly viable to them.

Dermot Ryan, Agriculture Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU stressed that the legislative procedure is not yet over, and that the EP plenary will give to the European Parliament a negotiating mandate.

Sébastien Godinot, Economist at WWF European Policy Office, highlighted that the EP plenary can still reverse the process and put the CAP reform back on the right track. He mentioned five key areas where the EP plenary should make improvements:

  1. In times of austerity, double funding is illegal and unacceptable
  2. In times of environmental crisis, watering down cross-compliance requirements (deleting obligations which would require that farmers shall respect other horizontal legislations such as the Water Framework Directive
  3. The Sustainable Use of Pesticides (SUPD) is simply unacceptable
  4. Instead of giving the choice to farmers to avoid greening measures, mandatory greening is essential
  5. It is vital to have transparency rules which give indications of who benefits from CAP subsidies
  6. From a democratic point of view, it is unacceptable that the AGRI Committee at the European Committee neglects proposals from other committees (e.g. Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI)

Contribution of the European Public Health & Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) to the debate

Zoltán Massay-Kosubek highlighted that the public health community is very concerned about the current status of the CAP reform – especially in light of the AGRI vote which can be considered as unfavourable to the public health community.

Key messages

  • Greening the CAP is not purely an agri-environmental issue but it is crucial for the public health community since it has further implications on other areas: water safety, use of dangerous chemicals, animal health, climate change, and the social well-being of not only the rural population but of the population as a whole because of food safety issues.
  • Food is an important social determinant of health as food security and the quality of food has a crucial impact on our health.
  • Although there were earlier indications during the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget negotiations that the new CAP will contain references to healthy & nutritious food, neither the original European Commission proposal nor any of the tabled amendments by the European Parliament contained such measures.
  • From a public health angle, it is a matter of concern that an amendment recently adopted by MEPs would allow EU Member States to decide which crops receive EU farming subsidies. That could see several countries giving huge amounts of money to their tobacco farmers.
  • There is a fundamental contradiction in the way the CAP reform is currently dealt with. If this amendment were to be finalised now, financial resources could be used to directly subsidise tobacco farmers from the EU budget, in the context where the EU spends a large amount of money on anti-tobacco campaigns (such as ‘Ex smokers are unstoppable’ .)

For further insight, read the article below from British newspaper The Telegraph:

MEPs plan tobacco subsidies as Brussels fights smoking

– Euractive article about that event ‘Fate of green CAP plans hangs on Parliament’

– EPC article – The green light for a modern CAP?

“The agricultural sector accounts for 44% of water abstraction in Europe and much more work is needed to promote more sustainable use of Europe’s water resources. The sector relies heavily on the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers containing nitrates which are significant sources of water pollution. In France alone, the cost of treating water pollution originating from farming is €54 billion a year, most of which is passed on to consumers. Furthermore, this sector produces 9% of EU greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of the nitrous oxide emissions in Europe, despite generating only 1.6% of EU GDP and employing 5% of EU citizens (figures from 2011).”

Get involved !

Get involved !

Sign up here to receive our updates on European health policy and invitations to our events.

Subscribe now

You have Successfully Subscribed!