This article by Jean-Christophe Bureau, the second strand in Futuribles’s dossier on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), outlines the issues raised by that policy and the main European actors involved (states, environmental organizations, farming unions etc.).
Bemoaning the fact that, in a context of rising world agricultural demand and intensified action on environmental matters, debate on the essential issues raised by the CAP has so far been too superficial, J.-C. Bureau begins by looking back over how we arrived at this situation. He indicates the path which, from 1992 onwards, led the European Council to reform the CAP, in an attempt to end what had become a structural mismatch between the supply and demand of agricultural produce, and describes the growing trend (with the reforms of 2003 and 2008) to vest responsibility for the management of agricultural subsidies in the member states. He goes on to present the positions of the main states concerned, together with a certain number of proposals advanced by non-governmental organizations or think-tanks in respect of the next stage, which is set to begin in 2013. These involve emphasizing “public goods” and encouraging the agricultural sector to act positively in environmental matters, rather than granting support centred exclusively on production or agricultural prices.
Lastly, Bureau identifies a number of possible ways forward for the CAP after 2013 in an unprecedented institutional context in which the European Parliament has a greater role, to the detriment of the Council and the European Commission. With some advocating a return to market regulation and others believing such a policy belongs to the past, while yet others wish to put an end to direct subsidy altogether (or to change its form); with differences of perspective between new and old members of the Union; and with countries where the agricultural sector is almost non-existent figuring alongside others where the economy is largely based on that sector, there is a danger of the debate degenerating into chaos. Can we really hope for an ambitious reform to emerge?