Final window for development-proofing the CAP


What's on this page
    % Complete

      This article was co-authored by Brecht Lein and Niels Keijzer (Deutsche Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

      The European Union is committed to policy coherence for development (PCD), and has identified global food security as one of the five key priority areas where EU policies should seek to have a positive impact or at least ‘do no harm’. But EU actors and development stakeholders seem to have difficulty in moving forward on two obviously interlinked questions – without an adequate monitoring mechanism (the “how” question) it is hard to actually prove the development-impact of the CAP (the “why” question). PCD efforts regarding the EU’s agriculture policy seem to have reached a deadlock that only a political decision can break.

      Today (March 12th) the European Parliament (EP) has reserved a six hour slot of its plenary session in Strasbourg to adopt its position on the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), based on a report adopted by its Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI).

      After recent turmoil in Strasbourg - with COMAGRI threatening to exclude the plenary from voting on all proposed amendment, including the ones on monitoring the CAP’s development-impact - MEPs were ultimately granted a final opportunity to development-proof the CAP.

      Impact of the CAP on developing countries largely absent from discussions

      One step away from upcoming inter-institutional negotiations between the European Council and the EP, stakeholders’ perceptions on the scope for a last-minute “real reform” range from “it’s not too late” to a “ship that sailed at least a year ago”. While environmental concerns, transparency and direct payment schemes are all the talk in the run up to the EP plenary vote on Wednesday (March 13th), considerations of the impact of the CAP on developing countries are largely absent from the discussion.

      In late January, COMAGRI members gavelled through some 100 amendments, distilled from more than 7500 original amendments to the Commission’s 2011 proposal, some informed by opinions of other EP Committees. The outcome was a weakening of the Commission’s proposals for a transition toward a more sustainable agro-food system. The vote triggered discontent both within and beyond Parliament - indeed, the EU farmers lobby organisation COPA-COGECA seems to be the only group welcoming the vote as a step “in the right direction”.

      Especially in the area of greening, the CAP (if adopted in this form) would in no way live up to the EU’s own position on how to reform global agriculture which it asked others to commit to during last year’s World Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Reactions from MEPs on COMAGRI’s proposals have been mixed to say the least and some of the issues regarding greening-measures are likely to provide for heated debates in the plenary.

      For various reasons, development interests have not been given much attention in the CAP reform. With the obvious negative effects of dumping through export subsidies largely gone, there are indeed ‘bigger fish to fry’ when it comes to making sure EU policies do not undermine global food security. Also, developing countries have become a highly heterogeneous group and it is difficult to identify a common development interest. The CAP’s inherent complexity as a policy further complicates its analysis in terms of impact, links and causality. However, given the huge portion of the EU budget that it covers, there have been strong calls by the European Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE), as well as by non-governmental actors and EU Member States to look into options for systematically monitoring how the CAP affects developing countries.

      Development amendments to reach plenary floor as Agriculture Committee folds to criticism

      A decision by the EP President as recent as last Friday, empowered COMAGRI to convene on Monday evening and to pare down the over 350 proposal that had so far been submitted ahead of the vote - a decision the President can take when there are over 50 amendments, but which he decided not to do for instance, in the case of the recently adopted Plenary position on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

      Among the amendments that were at risk of not even reaching the plenary, were the amendments previously proposed by the DEVE Committee in June 2012. DEVE argued that the CAP continued to have effects on third countries and therefore “must be carefully checked in the light of the Treaty obligation to ensure Policy Coherence for Development (PCD)”. In particular, DEVE proposed i) to integrate the CAP into the EU’s broader framework for PCD and measure its external impact; ii) to phase out export subsidies entirely; iii) address the EU’s dependence on protein crop imports; and iv) completely decouple direct payments from production.

      UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter repeatedly called for MEPs to support DEVE’s amendments, as a last chance to development-poof the CAP, yet COMAGRI rejected them all in January.

      Giving in to voices of disbelief and criticism on the undemocratic nature of the ‘extraordinary meeting’, COMAGRI president Paolo De Castro proposed last night in a remarkable U-turn, not to pare back the over 350 proposals en petit comité, but to allow the plenary to vote on them after all.

      If MEPs take seriously the EU’s engagement towards developing countries in the context of PCD as agreed to in the 2005 Consensus on Development and towards food security as stipulated in the CAP reform proposal, then they should grasp this final chance and vote in favour of a systematic external monitoring mechanism to assess the impact of the EU’s agricultural policy on developing countries and world food markets.


      Brecht Lein is a Research Assistant for ECDPM’s EU External Action and Food Security Programmes .

      Niels Keijzer, who co-authored this article, is Researcher at Deutsche Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

      This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.

      Loading Conversation