UK CAP reform demands ignored in EU talks

UK calls for far-reaching reform of the Common Agricultural Policy have been dismissed after EU member states agreed on plans to revamp the subsidy system.

At an EU farm council meeting in Brussels on Thursday (17 March), 20 ministers signed a joint declaration supporting a strong common policy which must be given “financial resources proportional to its aims”.

Opposing radical change to the CAP, ministers rejected proposals to set a ceiling on aid for Europe’s largest farms.

But they agreed to compromise on a fairer share-out of funds between farmers in eastern and western Europe.

The meeting was the last chance for member states to set out their priorities for the 2013 reform ahead of legislative proposals being made in October.

While the declaration did not set out detailed proposals or the size of the future CAP budget, the UK was one of seven countries to refuse to back it.

DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman had previously argued for substantial cuts in the CAP budget, which currently stands at about €60bn (£52m).

Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were the other countries which refused to endorse the proposals.

A British government spokesman said the declaration was “lacking in ambition”.

“The text does not go far enough to reflect our key concerns, namely that the conclusions are not ambitious enough and that they put the reform-orientated direction that the council has previously taken at risk,” he added.

French farm minister Bruno Le Maire said securing the support of 20 member states was a “good signal” for the future of EU farm policy.

France has long argued for maintaining a strong CAP and the same level of budgets.

EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos said the declaration would be a great help to the commission in the coming months ahead of its publication of CAP legislation later in the year.

Some of the countries that refused to sign the declaration had done so on the basis of a single word here or there, he added.

The European Commission is due make proposals on the EU’s next long-term budget for 2014-20, as well as the future of the CAP budget, by the end of June.

The commission would adopt detailed legislative proposals on the CAP reform in October.