Saturday, June 28, 2003
From Red to Green: The Common Agricultural Policy and Variable Geometry - 28th June 2003, 17.43

The European Union, in practice, often deploys administrative and political variations at a national or regional level, in order to avoid the fundamental heresy of a division in the ranks. The negotiations undertaken at an intergovernmental level resemble cabinet government (on the British model) in that a unified settlement is presented to the observer in order to avoid breaking the fundamental European value of solidarity.

The "reforms" to the Common Agricultural Policy, announced on Thursday, were an example of this. They allowed the dissenting Member States like France to retain the old system of linking production to subsidy. However, whilst the original system was socialist in its economics, linking subsidies to production, the new system is based upon 'green' criteria: environmental standards, food safety and animal welfare. In practice, the 'milk quota' will be replaced by the number of pigs in a pen and how many hedges you plant.

These are not reforms. They are an attempt by the interested parties to maintain a subsidy for their rural sectors and, like all those paid, have found new ideological foundations for the flow of taxpayers' money. The level of subsidy does not decline, the price of food paid for by the European consumer does not fall, and the fixed prices so beloved of CAP bureaucrats are maintained. There was a small move towards a freer market:

But the price floor for butter will be cut by 25 per cent over four years while that for skimmed milk powder will fall 15 per cent over three years.

The shift towards the environment and rural development is known as modulation and the system for allocating funds may result in a further decline in the flow of CAP money to the farming sector in the UK. Epolitix rounds up the interested institutions who welcome the proposals and share a common assumption that the taxpayers shoudl subsidise rural communities and farms. A full summary of the changes in their ghastly glory may be read here.


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