Watch the video of the interview (04’57) :
Touteleurope.eu : What is your opinion of the Commission’s proposals for the future of the CAP?
George Lyon : The Commission’s proposals put forward three options: maintaining the status quo, more evolutionary proposals and revolutionary ideas to get rid of all support and all market intervention entirely.
The middle ground option that the Commission has put forward follows similar lines to the European Parliament’s position which envisages a “greening” of the direct payments while also addressing issues of fairness and better distribution between member states.
I think that is the right way forward. Indeed, the Commission goes further than the report supported by the Parliament, as it argues for bringing in more environmental linkages and restrictions to the direct payments. We argued that only sustainability should be part of the direct payments requirements. Thus the Commission goes a bit further in that direction.
One area where the Commission proposal falls short is that there is no mention of the budget, and the budget is going to be the big, big debate.
Touteleurope.eu : Which proposals will have the most support in the Council ?
G.L.: I think the evolutionary proposal will be the one that gets the most support in the Council. I do not think that the status quo is an option, and that the revolutionary approach to do away with the CAP will certainly not gather widespread support either, so the middle ground option is the most realistic.
Touteleurope.eu : Is there much room for negotiations on the CAP or have the main outline been agreed already?
G.L. : I think there are still major negotiations ahead! If you look at the Commission’s paper, it is not very detailed. There are a whole lot of ideas thrown into the mix. There is a long way to go yet. Most people could draw something out of the Commission’s paper to show that their concerns are being addressed. The real nitty-gritty is boiling it down to what exactly the proposal is going to be about; when we start to get into the details it is going to be really tough. There is a long hard road to go before we reach an end conclusion in this.
Touteleurope.eu : What is at stake in the CAP negotiations?
G.L. : There are various blocks appearing during these negotiations. I think the Parliament has actually adopted the right position, but that would be my view given that I was author of the report! It seems to me that the big challenge that we face going forward is how we actually ensure that we have a sustainable food production system in the future.
The impact of climate change will mean there will be less new land coming into production, that we are going to face a scarcity of water and that energy is going to become scarcer and more expensive. These are major challenges if we have to produce the extra food that is required for growing world our population and developing countries where there is extra demand for meat-based, westernized diets.
Therefore sustainability has to be at the heart of the reform going forward. I’m glad that in the Commission’s paper they reflect on that, I hope that Member States will rally around this and understand those big challenges and CAP should be part of driving this agenda forward.
Touteleurope.eu : Do you think the CAP will remain 40% of the European budget?
G.L. : There is no doubt that the CAP budget will come under scrutiny because Member States are hard up, and austerity budgets are being introduced across the EU. This is not going to change in the short term, so the back-drop to these negotiations is the budget debate, and the budget debate, I suspect, will drive the final debate about the CAP. The Parliament has negotiated a position which says that we believe that the 2013 budget position, which is 39% of the total EU budget, should be maintained. Clearly the negotiation that will result in an agreement further down the road, but I think that 39% will come under pressure as the debate develops.
Touteleurope.eu : Why is a strong CAP important for the EU?
G.L. : The CAP guarantees continuity of supply. It guarantees consumers that they will be able to source local food from their local communities. If you allowed the market to decide where we are going to grow food then there would be vast areas of Europe which would not grow food at all because the competitive disadvantage they suffer would prevent them from competing. Consumers will not want to see this happening.
The CAP also makes sure that we have tough rules for environment, that we have the landscape that we all appreciate that it is managed by farmers… so I think there is a vast range of benefits that the CAP delivers. Clearly the big challenge going forward is to make sure that we have sustainable food production for the future that can still guarantee safe quality food to consumers in Europe and can also make some contribution to the growing worldwide demand.