Complex, if not incomprehensible, the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its many reforms generate ever more frequent criticisms or, at best, puzzlement. What is the true purpose of this policy to regulate agricultural output and sales within the EU? Is it still essential now that free market principles are applied to almost every productive sector?
The wish to protect the agricultural sector is especially strong in France, which alone produces 20% of the agricultural output of the EU and consequently is the principal beneficiary of the CAP. But now, with ten new countries joining the EU, all poorer than the existing members, the question of the need for the CAP is being raised again.
If the debate surrounding the CAP is complicated, Lucien Bourgeois explains, it is because agriculture itself is a very peculiar branch of production. Because its products are essential to human life, many governments choose to protect it and to ensure that farmers have greater security than any other profession.
Lucien Bourgeois reviews recent changes to the CAP and explains that, while it certainly needs some revision, governments must always be concerned to maintain secure food supplies.