The seeds of reform

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.44, 29.11.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 29/11/2001
Content Type

Date: 29/11/01

"FRANCE backs profound reform of CAP". It's the sort of headline most of us probably thought we'd never read in our lifetime. But it seems that even the most deeply entrenched views can be reversed almost overnight these days.

The new government report on the future of the EU ordered by Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin following the Nice summit shows just how far attitudes have changed in France during the past year - especially in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy.

Most of the 25,000 ordinary citizens canvassed at regional seminars for the study judged that a "profound reform" of the CAP is now necessary.

This will be music to the ears of those who have long complained that the system encourages quantity to the detriment of quality.

This is certainly the view of German Agriculture Minister Renate Künast, who told an industry audience in Brussels last week that subsidies should be directed more towards rural development and encouraging environmentally friendly farming methods.

It seems that she is winning the argument - and not just in her own country.

Chirac and Jospin, in common with most other EU leaders, have made it clear that they will not consider any fundamental CAP reforms before 2006, when the current budgetary package expires. However a spokesman for Pierre Moscovici, France"s Europe minister, conceded that there could be certain re-adjustments to the existing regime before then.

The European Commission has also acknowledged that changes to the CAP are a possibility. Writing in European Voice last week, agriculture spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said that next year's review could serve as an opportunity to make the CAP "more sustainable in environmental, social and economic terms".

A reorientation of the existing system could safeguard the industry in less-favoured areas and encourage the big operators to address the real concerns of consumers at the end of the farm-to-fork production line.

Chirac and Jospin should listen to what the French public are telling them.

  • Hold the phone. Just when it appeared the EU would never act to force former telecommunications monopolies to open up the last mile of their telephone lines to competitors, Erkki Liikanen came through yesterday (28 November) with a much-needed call.

The telecoms commissioner said infringement procedures would be launched on 20 December against member states that have failed to ensure these "local loops" are made available to everybody, especially new telecoms firms.

It's about time, as it was beginning to look as if nobody would heed the EU's new liberalisation rules, adopted almost a year ago. Once the lines are open, internet access will become faster and cheaper, encouraging more Europeans to log on. No longer will would-be surfers have to rely on what the old-line phone companies were giving them at a very high price: the computer-age equivalent of two cans and a piece of string.

Comment on how French attitudes have changed towards the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

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