Framing agricultural policy through the EC’s strategies on CAP reforms (1992–2017)

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Series Details Volume 9, Number 5
Publication Date 2021
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The periodic reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are announced each time by a strategic document in the form of a Communication by the European Commission (EC). The content of the last Communication differs from previous ones, which raises the questions of what frames the EC has employed with respect to its CAP reforms and how these frames have been modified over the past 26 years (from 1991 to 2017) in order to legitimise the preservation of the CAP.

This paper tries to fill the gap in the research of frames in the main strategic documents on the CAP by employing comparative historical framing analysis. The results show consistent use of five frames: the policy mechanism frame, farmers’ economic frame, foreign trade frame, budgetary frame, and the societal concerns frame. While they have all remained in use, most have been changed significantly over the years. Throughout the analysed period, the farmers’ economic frame has retained its primacy and continuity, demonstrating the power of the farmers’ lobbies and conservative member states. If in the initial Communications the environment was barely present within the societal concerns frame, it has gained importance in the recent Communications, in addition to other general societal issues, such as climate change, food security and quality, health, digitalisation, innovation, and even migration. By marginalising the policy mechanism frame and replacing it with the implementation model and increasingly emphasising the societal concerns frame with social justifications of the CAP, the EC is trying to legitimise the CAP after 2021.

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