Below is the information taken from the provisional EU Council press release sent out after the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting which took place in Brussels on the 19th and 20th March 2012. You can find the full document here
CAP REFORM – SIMPLIFICATION
Ministers held an exchange of views on the simplification within the framework of the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform.
Many delegations expressed regret that the six principles which were outlined in March 2011, have not been taken sufficiently into account in the CAP reform package presented by the Commission. As regards direct payments, most delegations expressed concern over the introduction of a definition of active farmer as that could significantly increase the administrative burden. Many member states suggested that it should be left to subsidiarity. The issues of greening, and the new payment model were discussed, as they would all represent an increase in administrative costs.
Some delegations questioned the benefits of the greening measures, such as permanent grassland, crop diversification and ecological focus area. In light of the significant administrative costs involved, delegations stressed the need for value added.
Concerning rural development, many delegations found that programming has become much more complex in the new proposals, with numerous requirements regarding content. In parallel, evaluation and monitoring requirements have been extended resulting in a very complex and burdensome system for the authorities and the beneficiaries. Some requirements, such as the Innovation Prize and the performance reserve, would be so costly and complex to implement. Several delegations highlighted that the principles of proportionality and risk-based approach should have been applied further, especially for controls and sanctions in the framework of the financing of the CAP.
In March 2011, several member states presented a note to the Agriculture Council outlining six key principles for simplification of the CAP after 2013 (7477/1/11):
• The CAP should be simpler and cheaper for national authorities and imply reduced administrative costs for recipients;
• A risk-based approach should apply to controls on administrations and recipients;
• Member States should be accorded discretion and flexibility in programming, defining detailed controls, monitoring and evaluation of schemes;
• Controls and penalties should be more proportional;
• Consideration should be given to full transparency and clarity of roles and responsibilities;
• A better use of technology should be encouraged.
These principles practically received unanimous support in the Council and confirmed the priority amongst Member States to actively integrate simplification in the design of the future CAP so as to secure the simplest possible regulatory framework at minimum cost that is consistent with specific policy objectives.
The CAP reform package was presented by the Commission at the Agriculture Council meeting in October 2011. The proposals were accompanied by a detailed impact assessment which also addresses simplification and the reduction of administrative burden of the CAP. In response to requests from Member States, Commissioner Ciolos sent out a letter to ministers in November 2011 explaining in great detail how simplification is accounted for in the reform proposals.
Concerning the CAP reform, the Council had already held policy debates on the proposals on direct payments, rural development and on single common market organisation during the three last Agriculture Council meetings in November and December last year and January this year. In the coming month, the Danish Presidency intends to organise further policy debates on thematic issues such as, greening of the CAP, the notion of “active farmer” or innovation.