A technical meeting to discuss the Health Check of the CAP, organised by Aquitaine Region and the CPMR, took place in Brussels on 25 March 2008. Patrick Anvroin, CPMR’s Director for agriculture and responsible for this initiative, declared himself satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, at which fifty-five participants from thirty-three Regions discussed the positions that could be jointly defended by the regions during 2008 on the European Union’s agriculture, food and rural development policies.
“CPMR wishes to contribute to the debate on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy,” said Mr Anvroin. “This policy is set to undergo changes following the ‘Health Check’ currently under discussion within the EU institutions and a perhaps more significant reform as of 2014.”
The meeting was chaired by Béatrice Gendreau, Vice-President of Aquitaine Regional Council, who launched the idea of a regionalisation of the CAP.
Ms Gendreau, more than thirty regions today debated the “Health Check” of the CAP. Do you think this policy is really “ailing”?
BG: “No…. the CAP is not ailing, but it needs to be renovated and I think this is something very important. In 2003, the CAP took a new direction which, in my view, is not at all suited to the nature of farming today, above all in areas with a lot of small farms and diversified agricultural production. We know that agricultural policy has neglected certain sectors: I am thinking of organic farming, market gardening, fruit farming, etc… Unfortunately today these are not taken into account.”
Do you think that Europe needs to “regionalise” the CAP, to take a more territorial approach?
BG: “Nowadays it is the regions that are closest to farmers and to the world of agriculture in general. They are confronted with the real problems at grass roots level, which is not the case of Member States. To come back to organic farming: we have a policy at regional level to support organic farming. However, at the national level in France, there is little aid for this sector even though there is very strong demand for organic products. Consumers want organic products, but cannot find them in the shops because production is limited. Aquitaine Regional Council provides some support for organic farming, but it remains insufficient because our budget is limited. If we had access today to European funding to help us provide incentives for this sector, I believe consumers would be grateful. I have taken the example of organic farming, but the same is true for other sectors, because the regions are closer to the rural world.”
Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, along with the French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier will take part in the Seminar on “The future of the Common Agricultural Policy” being organised by the CPMR in Nantes in October 2008 (date to be confirmed). What do you expect from the European Commission on this subject?
BG : “I hope that they will hear what we have to say, and especially our wish for regionalisation. I will say to them that I would re-name the CAP a ‘food policy’, because that is the real challenge for Europe today. And that we want to see a strong, competitive agricultural sector, in which small farms still have their place. I don’t wish to see us move towards the American model; Europe needs therefore to be strong enough to counter the American system.”
We must be optimistic then?
BG: “Of course! I am.”
Enrico Mayrhofer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lejla Becirovic (email@example.com)