Dacian Ciolos interview

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Dacian Ciolos interview

Dacian Ciolos interview
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The Common Agricultural Policy, the CAP, is a source of much friction in the EU. But it is due to be reformed by the end of 2013 and initial consultations are already underway. Euronews caught up with Dacian Ciolos (the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development) as he was visiting a dairy farm in Belgium.

Euronews: “What’s the reason for having a public debate about agriculture now?”

Dacian Ciolos: “The CAP, the Common Agricultural Policy, concerns everyone in Europe, all tax-payers who contribute to the budget of this policy. So I think it’s important, before making any preliminary studies, before we reform the CAP, that we listen to people’s opinions about this policy, not only farmers, but everyone’s opinions in Europe.”

Euronews: “That sounds like you’re defending the CAP against certain Member States – the UK and other northern countries in particular – who want to get rid of the CAP, isn’t that it?”

Dacian Ciolos: “Listening to Agriculture Ministers, MEPs from all the Member States… so far I haven’t heard a single politician say we don’t need a Common Agricultural Policy. In general, they say we need a Common Agricultural Policy, but let’s see how we can make it more efficient.”

Euronews: “There are farmers who say, listen, if I was to just look at my bottom line, it would be much better for me to do nothing. I’d make more from direct payments, and that’s that.”

Dacian Ciolos: “Direct payments have to be reformed, the mechanism for maintaining the market has to be reviewed and adapted to the opening of the EU market to the world. The second pillar, the rural development policy also needs reviewing, because we need to modernise – not only to be more competitive, but also to incorporate measures against climate change.”

Euronews: “There is also pressure from the WTO. Do you think the EU has to get agreement with other parts of the world so as to reduce agriculture and protect its own farmers?”

Dacian Ciolos: “Our reform of the CAP is not linked to WTO negotiations, they are two completely different things.”

Euronews: “But it looks a bit like that…”

Dacian Ciolos: “Yes, but the EU has already put an offer on the table, which so far hasn’t been matched by other large countries at the WTO negotiations. So this offer already exists. We’re just waiting to see what steps our partners are willing to take. I mean, just look at another economic power, the US, and tell me if they are more liberal than the EU on agriculture. Tell me if government support for agriculture in the US is less than in the EU. You’ll see that it simply isn’t the case. So I think that defining the CAP is a job for Europeans and not for the rest of the world.”

Euronews: “Do you think there are too many farmers in the EU?”

Dacian Ciolos: “Personally I think that’s a false debate. Too many or not enough. The big question is what we want from agriculture, from European agriculture. And according to the answer, naturally there will be adjustments, but they mustn’t be made in an artificial way.”

Euronews: “But take milk for example, the farmers are saying, “We are selling milk so cheaply, that in fact we’re making a loss on it.”

Dacian Ciolos: There, it’s certain that production has to follow demand – except there are certain sectors, like of course dairy production – that’s a good example – where even if demand varies, production can’t always vary in response, because it’s a long term investment, over ten, fifteen years. You can’t change production levels from one year to the next like you can with vegetables, fruit, and even cereals.”

Euronews: “Yes, but when a farmer tells us, it costs 32 centimes a litre to produce but we’re selling it for 25. I mean, that’s a problem.”

Dacian Ciolos: “Yes, we need to sort that out, both so that more milk is sold to make dairy products, but there are other avenues, like making products on the farm as happens here on this farm, where part of their milk production is prcessed on the farm, and they sell directly to the public. It’s true that they don’t sell in very large quantities, but a litre of milk sold directly to the public makes a euro, and here they make butter too, and ice cream.”

Euronews: It has been said that you are a Commissioner who tends to agree with the French. Are you just going to defend the CAP, and the interests of France, and the other countries who are on the French side in this issue?”

Ciolos: France isn’t the only country to have agriculture, it’s not only Germany, it’s not only Poland, it’s not only Spain and Italy… there are farmers all over Europe and for me, I consider this diversity as a European wealth…”

Euronews: Yes, but all the same there are differences, divergent points of view of the CAP – between France and other countries for example and other countries like the UK and northern countries like Denmark or Sweden…”

Ciolos: The Commission will make some propositions, and then from this divergence, through negotiations we’ll arrive at a mutually agreed point of view which will be taken by the President of the Council, it will also be upheld by the President of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee. I’m just a European Commissioner, I work for Europe’s best interests, for the best interests of Europen agriculture and farmers. I don’t work for the interests of any single country.”

Euronews: Thank you, Monsieur le Commissaire.