EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about CAP reform was published by EurActiv on 20th September 2010.

Looking in the future, large recipient countries like France will have no choice but to accept a partial re-nationalisation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or otherwise risk paying hefty hand-outs to Eastern EU farmers, says Jack Thurston, co-founder of an NGO tracking the bloc’s farm subsidies.

As is often the case with major EU reforms, the outcome of negotiations on reforming the CAP is likely to be decided during last-minute political haggling between member states, said Thurston who is co-founder of farmsubsidy.org.

However, one thing appears certain, he says: the EU is moving towards a partial re-nationalisation of its farm policy after 2013, when the bloc’s new long-term budget plans will start kicking in.

Even though the move is likely to be resented by countries currently receiving large amounts of subsidies, Thurston believes they will have no choice.

This is because, towards the middle of the next decade, an unreformed CAP would see traditional large recipient countries like France turning into large contributing countries, he said.

CAP funding, “which used to bring in all this good German money to France” will then start flowing to Poland, he said. With co-financing, the money will at least be staying in France rather than going into Polish farmer’s pockets, he added.

For the same reasons, co-financing would also be hugely beneficial in budget terms to Germany, he added.

“I think everyone is accepting that the CAP budget is going to be co-financed after 2013,” Thurston said.

Indeed, Thurston pointed out that France has already started talking about increasing “national responsibility” within the CAP’s so-called “first pillar”, which governs direct payments to farmers.

During the 2008 CAP health check, former French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier negotiated key reform – Article 68 – which allows countries to re-direct EU cash from traditional subsidies into new policies to sustain farming, for example in mountain areas, he remarked.

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