A European, agroecological and integrated rural lens


Since the 2019 Communication on the European Green Deal, ARC2020’s CAP Strategic Plans project has provided consistent analysis on the CAP reform post-2022 and the design, negotiation and approval of National CAP Strategic Plans. For the years to come, we want to bring the project to the next phase, in a new context. This is why and how.

Why do we need this critical action-research?

The long road to the CAP Strategic Plans began in 2018, when three CAP legislative proposals were presented by the Juncker Commission to the EU co-legislators. The road was political, but also very technical. Since then, the CAP reform has witnessed the gradual dilution of the initial environmental and social equity ambitions. The alignment with the Green Deal has yet to come. Meanwhile, the previous Commission’s technical apparatus and power control has been reshuffled and facelifted in the so-called European CAP Network, Long-Term Visions, and Horizon 2020 projects. Outside the CAP, things have changed too.

The war in Ukraine has fuelled a stale, polarised debate putting food security at odds with social and climate justice, distracting attention from trade speculation, unsustainable agri-trade systems, and inequalities. Food and production prices are soaring, while people’s purchasing power is going down. Wars have always been in the background of European policies, and were a factor when the CAP was agreed in Rome in 1958. But now there is a growing trend towards nationalisation, privatisation, and liberalisation of agri-food and trade policies.

The CAP, once a leading force for European integration and diversity, is now the arena of nationalisation and imbalances between regions. EU trade agreements, enforcement mechanisms, and state aid rules are being liberalised, fragmented, and poorly managed at EU level. The private sector is also finding new ways to shape the CAP and channel public funding towards financial investments in the agricultural sector, either via private insurance (risk management tools), corporate farming (investments), or food corporations (sectorial type of interventions and POs). Private funding in agriculture may be on the way to replace or downgrade CAP interventions, for example through the setting up of private carbon farming schemes and the use of Voluntary Carbon Markets.

The timeline ahead for CAP changes is quite tight. With the first CAP annual performance review and amendments, the 2024 European elections, and the 2025 Commission review of the policy in sight, we are all called on to very critically monitor these developments, and strategise around constructive alternatives in the short- and long-term. The future of CAP will improve only if agricultural, food, and rural matters are integrated coherently at multiple levels of governance in the EU and beyond.

How do we want to proceed? 

  • Starting from the basics, again: transparency and inclusivity in CAP implementation and evaluation process

With all CAP Strategic Plans now approved, much of focus is shifting from projections to real-time implementation and evaluation. The CAP Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (PMEF) for the 2023-2027 period has a new outlook, but society at large is aware of the flaws and missed opportunities of this governance tool. New digital technologies continue to promise a modernised CAP and more accurate volumes of micro-data, but basic access to public statistics and information (such as on CAP beneficiaries) remains outdated in many Member States. New actors such as the National CAP Networks are in the best position to curate CAP information and make it accessible to the public audience and researchers. They can fact-check the Commission’s own analyses and the CAP Strategic Plans, bringing clarity and independent information for deeper analyses.

At the same time, with the CAP unfolding in the Member States, attention must shift from Brussels to national capitals, regions, and local areas. Will the interactions between various multi-level governance bodies bring added value and respect different views, such as those of official bodies (CAP monitoring committees, managing authorities, paying agencies, networks) and civil society groups, researchers, and small-medium enterprises? Is DG AGRI preparing the evidence basis and building information systems to carry out impartial and meaningful assessments of the CAP reform post-2022?

  • Looking at the substance: environmental, economic, and social dimensions of the National Strategic Plans

The CAP Strategic Plans entered into force only in January 2023, with a number of elements containing novelties in terms of content and delivery: ecoschemes, new result-oriented AECM measures, sectorial type of interventions, insurance, social conditionalities. How is the design of new interventions working in practice? Are the plans meeting expectations in a new reality and world? International trade is shaking agri-food markets: how is the CAP responding with the CAP Strategic Plans, but also with EU decisions to improve farmers’ bargaining powers and crisis reserve? 

  • The big picture: Overlapping EU policies and implications for third countries 

Thinking outside the CAP, how are the Plans interacting with new EU legislation on carbon farming, GMO deregulation, green claims, quality schemes, pesticides, unfair trade practices, sustainable food systems frameworks, and other topics? Many of those legislative proposals, such as the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products Regulation or the Certification for Carbon Removal framework, have overlapping goals with the CAP. They also often rely on the CAP to implement measures and finance them. But is the current CAP the right tool to support the Green Deal in its completion?

Finally, in a globalised world, decisions at the EU level can also have major consequences in developing regions. What are the implications of CAP SPs at international level, for instance in terms of food and feed trade, environment, workers’ rights, farming systems, rural development, cooperation and gender?

If you are interested in joining the team: welcome on board!

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