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Europe's row over Common Agricultural Policy

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Europe's row over Common Agricultural Policy

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The Common Agricultural Policy or CAP has been under attack for some time now both from within the EU and from without.

Last June, Britain called it a policy of the past and said the future of Europe lay in scientific and technological advances. EuroNews asked Paul Magnette, head of the European Studies Institute in Brussels, whether the CAP was obsolete. “Agricultural policy is being reformed all the time, and its budget is cut further every year,” said Magnette. “But it remains and will probably continue to be one of Europe’s core policies, because it’s not only a policy of the past, it’s also a policy of modernity and technological development in agriculture today – be it new quality standards, food safety, or new production methods.” London insists the CAP benefits only a few countries, particularly France, while it damages the EU as a whole by taking financial resources away from other policies. Today, France receives more farm aid than anyone, around a fifth of the total. Then come Spain, Germany, Italy and Britain. Head of the European Policy Centre John Palmer said: “Indeed, if you measure the benefits for each individual farmer per capita, the British farmers benefit much more than the French farmers. Why? Because British farmers have big estates, the largest landowners in Europe, some of them royal, some of them aristocratic, but because there are few of them in number, the total flow of benefits is less.” George Nunez works as an analyst at the Brussels-based think-tank CEPS. He said: “I call the CAP the French rebate, a bit provocatively, but it has a similar effect in the sense of who benefits. France gets a disproportionate amount, given the wealth of the country. They are one of the rich countries.” Under a 2002 reform deal led by France and Germany, the EU’s then 15 members agreed to freeze farm funding until 2012. But today it seems less than certain the bloc’s new members will be prepared to wait that long.