The future of CAP and its contribution to a balanced territorial development

At the meeting of the Agricultural and Fisheries Council celebrated in Brussels on 21 February, ministers held a third policy debate on the Commission communication 'The CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future'. In this occasion, the debate - structured around a Presidency questionnaire, focused on balanced territorial development, which is the third main objective for the future CAP identified in the Commission communication.

Member States agreed that maintaining a balanced territorial development constitutes a major objective for the future CAP and many delegations noted that although rural development policy would remain important for Europe's rural areas, there is still need for more co-ordination and synergy with other EU policies such as regional and cohesion policy.

In addition, the improvement of the rural economy should be based on diversification, development of local markets and other agriculture related activities, particularly tourism and the production of renewable energies. Member States generally agreed that the vitality and potential of rural areas in the EU would continue to depend upon the presence of a competitive and dynamic farming sector. In this respect, many underlined the importance of creating the right conditions for keeping young farmers and their families in the rural areas.

The Presidency will use the outcome of the three policy debates to prepare Council conclusions by consensus among delegations, for adoption in March 2011.

Viable food production, sustainable agriculture management and territorial balance: key issues for future CAP

The first policy debate on the Commission communication at the December agriculture Council was centred on viable food production. For many delegations, in order to achieve this objective, the CAP would still need to provide some level of farm income support as well as a safety net of market measures to help farmers cope with crisis situations. At the same time, the CAP needs to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, in particular by promoting innovation, research and training. 

During the second policy debate at the last agriculture Council, Member States acknowledged the general objective of developing sustainable management of European agriculture within the framework of CAP reform. Some delegations agreed with the Commission suggestion that the first pillar should be the main instrument for the "greening" of the CAP, while others preferred the environmental measures to be part of the second pillar and rural development.

The Council has discussed different aspects of the reform over five successive Presidencies. Since the Commission communication on future of CAP towards 2020 was published in November 2010, the Council has examined its content and impact at ministerial level, but also in the SCA and in specialized working parties, in order to allow in-depth scrutiny of the future reform of the CAP. The Commission communication outlines options and launches the debate with the Council, the Parliament and stakeholders. On the basis of the outcome of the institutional debate, the Commission is scheduled to present its legislative proposals on the CAP towards 2020 in the second half 2011.