EU agricultural policy straddles the fence

Published: 06 December 2010

„Seventy percent of the agricultural products imported to the EU are from the developing countries,“ says proudly Cathrine Ray, spokesperson of European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs. However the Commissiner for agriculture and rural development would probably proudly anounce different things: „Our aim is to make the European Union self-sufficient in its agriculture...“ Sometimes it seems like if the left hand didn’t know what’s the right hand is doing.

Ray is angry that the journalists are feeding the “myth” of developing countries unfriendly EU agricultural policy. “European agricultural policy has been reformed in 2003. The subsidies on export have been reduced and at the end they should be eliminated,” says Ray. She is also repeating the “Everything but Arms” policy under which all imports to the EU from the Least Developed Countries are duty free and quota free (but all phases of production must occur within such Least Developed Country).

Despite the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the truth is that it still accounts for more than 40% of EU budget and each EU citizen contributes approximately two Euros per week on financing the CAP. Strong internal subsidies make it a lot more difficult for products from developing countries to be competitive. “There is a lack of policy coherence and consistence. Internal as well as external agricultural policies shouldn’t undermine development assistance. The politicians should be aware that internal agricultural policy has external effects,” says Meagen Baldwin from Concord, a confederation of European NGOs. She is further claiming that shifting only one or two percent from the CAP to the development aid could have a huge effect without really harming European agriculture.

On the other hand why should starving countries yet export their crops? “The primary concern should be definitely to feed the local market. Then the regional, national and at the last the international,” thinks Ray and gives an example of support that EU gave to Burkina Faso budget last year, so this year it could transport crops from the North of the country to the South.

Do all those quotes seem a bit self-repugnant to you? You are right. We are again encountering a little bit paradoxical acting: on one hand supporting exports and on the other hand claiming, that international exports of agricultural products are the last thing at which the poor countries should be concentrating.

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