“The Common Agricultural Policy – can EU citizens still follow?”
The European Commission seems to be facing a communication problem: with the re-orientation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU has set targets which, with regard to their composition and priority-setting, are intended to have a stronger focus towards the interests of citizens in EU Member States. However, even today, there is a common misconception amongst the public, based largely on images that persist from the 1970’s and 1980’s, that surplus food continues to be produced, dumped and destroyed. Added to this is a lack of knowledge and understanding, among the public, about the CAP and its impact on their lives.
During a panel discussion organised by the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture e.V. (EISA) in Hildesheim, Germany, on 4th September 2008, representatives of EISA, the EU Commission, the German Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and the Farmers Union of Lower Saxony discussed the importance of raising public awareness of the CAP and the challenges this will bring. ”Many EU citizens remain uniformed about EU Policies, what they mean to them and the impact they have on their daily lives. We have a moral obligation to do all we can to improve everyone’s understanding of these policies” explained EISA Chairman, Tony Worth.
“Since the start of the CAP, however, this has not been addressed and we need to take steps to improve this situation,” he continued. As well as covering issues such as nutrition, energy supply, environment and the protection of natural resources, EU policies would encompass a far broader spectrum of issues than before and therefore need to ensure they addressed the multitude of national interests and attitudes of the 27 EU Member States. Against this background, Dr Martin Scheele, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the EU Commission, questioned whether it might be better to encourage EU citizens’ general acceptance of the CAP, rather than aim for a detailed understanding of it. He said: “Let me put it this way: I do not understand what makes my car function, but I trust that it does its job properly by taking me from one place to another. I live with that – and I have to.” In any case, there would be a need to continuously communicate agricultural policies in the future, Dr Scheele said. If, for example, the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ would be discussed, it should be made clear to the public that even such a system would know winners and losers. “We will not be able to create paradise.” Clemens Neumann, Head of the Department Administration/Management at the Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in Germany, emphasised that EU citizens should be prepared for the challenges in agriculture and the respective consequences of alternative political strategies. “If a consumer requests the abolition of a certain production system in his country, but still wants to buy the produce, he has to realise that the only chance to get the product will be via imports – leaving the value-adding to other countries.” In addition, Mr Neumann felt that there needed to be more discussion on the individual responsibility of consumers. In this context, he said it should be openly questioned why consumers in some EU countries throw away up to 30 % of the food they buy. Even the figure of 10 % of the food being thrown away in Germany would be far too high when seen against global malnourishment. In a globalised world, he said, the consequences of individual actions needed to be debated. was consensus between participants of the panel discussion that an open discussion about agriculture and the Common Agricultural Policy was needed. It was critical that the benefits of agriculture and agricultural policies and the direct and indirect costs associated with any further agricultural developments, were demonstrated to all EU member citizens. ”We consider it very important that consumers are made aware of the wider role of farmers, not just as food producers and custodians of the countryside, but as providers of health and well being benefits and their importance in both rural and urban communities“, concluded Jörn Dwehus of the Farmers Union of Lower Saxony. Contacts:
Dr. Andreas Frangenberg
D- 53179 Bonn
Tel.: +49 (228) 979 93 35
Responsible: Dr. Gibfried Schenk, Dr. Uwe Scheper EISA
Mr Robby Schreiber
Av. Lt. G. Pire 15
Tel: +32 (2) 660 82 14
www.sustainable-agriculture.org EISA, the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture, is a European farmers’ organisation with 6 national associations (Austria, Germany, France, Luxemburg, Sweden and United Kingdom) for the development and promotion of sustainable development in agriculture and in particular the holistic concept of Integrated Farming as Full Members.