Italy, France and Spain join forces on the CAP

On 16 October 2012 Italy, France and Spain presented a common platform to defend agricultural expenditures for the next EU 2014-2020 budget and to have greater flexibility in the application of the CAP reform. The agreement was announced by Mario Catania, Italy’s Minister for Agriculture who during FAO’s World Food Day in Rome met with his French and Spanish counterparts; Stéphane Le Foll and Miguel Arias Cañete.

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Their declaration follows a Franco-German agreement and is aimed at strengthening the Mediterranean coalition in the difficult battle against those who are clamoring for a substantial reduction in the entire EU budget.

A common platform against deregulation

Towards the end their meeting Italy’s minister Catania explained that “with France and Spain, there exists a deep and meaningful convergence about both the defense of the agricultural budget, which is the central point of our agreement, and the contents of CAP reform.” The minister also received support from the two countries for changing the parameters used to distribute European aid between Member States: the criterion proposed by the Commission would penalise Italy which risks a 18% cut in EU funds. In addition, the agreement includes for the process of convergence within countries about direct payments to be applied more gradually and with higher flexibility compared to current proposals. Finally, a common position was reached against the deregulation of vineyards as proposed by the Commission. The request is to maintain planting rights even after the 2018 deadline.

Even Germany opposes cuts to CAP spending

The recent agreement signed between France and Germany provides support for the Commission’s proposal to freeze agricultural expenditure on the 2013 nominal levels until 2020. The Franco-German pact has been criticized by many in Berlin. During previous European negotiations, Germany sided with countries seeking a downward revision of the EU budget. However, doing this without cutting agricultural spending (which is about 40% of the total) is almost impossible. Minister Le Foll said he was, “confident that Germany will vote in favor of the Commission’s proposals to maintain agricultural spending,” which Spain’s minister defined as “minimum necessary conditions to protect agriculture.”

An informal but important G-20 meeting on price volatility

Italy’s minister Catania also explained that “an informal but important meeting” was held with ministers from the G-20 to discuss the impact of rising commodity prices and a possible joint food stock management. The meeting follows the cancellation of a Rapid Response Forum with G20 agriculture ministers. Announced on 17 September by French president François Hollande and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva it received a ‘thumb-down’ on 1st October by the USA. Da Silva said that “important advances have already been made in governance,” citing several instruments like the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) created last year by the G20. Its scope is to ensure improved international coordination, information and market transparency. The Director-General remarked that AMIS “allowed us to react quickly to the price rise we saw in July 2012; preventing panic, avoiding unilateral actions and further spikes in those initial tense days.”

Increasing numbers of people within the EU are deprived of food

From Brussels, Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş reminded not to abandon the goal of halving by 2015 the number of people (over 868 million) suffering from hunger. According to Italian NGO Coldiretti the number of people deprived of food is increasing; this especially in ‘rich’ countries. According to the NGO requests for food parcels or a free meal through non-profit channels have reached 3.3 million in Italy during this year alone. The Italy-France-Spain agreement includes the maintenance of the EU aid program for deprived persons.