Agricultural policy

In an article published in yesterday’s Kathimerini, European Commissioner for Agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel defends the Commission’s agricultural policy, known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and refutes British criticism of the guidelines as irrational and detrimental. With a long political career in Denmark, Boel carries with her the social development and sensitivity of her country. Indeed, in her article she not only re-establishes the truth about the CAP, but also reminds us that the particular policy serves specific European Union goals that we should never allow ourselves to lose sight of. The Danish commissioner points out that the CAP absorbs 40 percent of the EU’s budget as it is the only policy that is funded exclusively by the Commission. The policy’s actual cost does not surpass 0.43 percent of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) – a figure that is set to drop to 0.33 percent over the next eight years. This is a small price to pay if one considers that the EC uses the CAP to avert the widespread desertion of rural areas, to ensure the production of quality foodstuffs, to offer incentives to farmers to protect the environment, as well as to protect the natural landscapes which play such a significant part in the lives of all Europeans. As for certain irrational aspects of the policy – such as generous subsidies to rich landowners – Boel reminds us that it was Britain that had hindered the establishment of restrictions in this area. Kathimerini has often referred to the illogical aspects of agricultural policy in Greece – the excessive subsidies for cotton and the guzzling of water resources being two examples. However, Kathimerini has made just as many references to the significance of the CAP to the Union as a whole. It is thanks to this policy that Europe has avoided major social displacement of the type witnessed in the USA and even in Britain. The CAP may be in need of certain reforms, but this should not lead to the abolition, or discredit, of its fundamental social role. The same applies to the EU’s political leadership. The goal of the Union’s agricultural policy is to ensure the prosperity of its citizens, not to boost statistics. Growth and economic rationalization must be balanced against general prosperity, the protection of the environment and cultural development. The problem is determining how best to strike this balance, not whose goals will be sacrificed. Boel’s comments on the EU’s agricultural policy are equally applicable to our entire political leadership.

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