sábado, 20 de fevereiro de 2010

Accidental Farmer’s Remarks Bulletin (I) Accidental meeting in Lisbon

Accidental Farmer’s Remarks Bulletin
(I) Accidental meeting in Lisbon
As the German Marshall Fund of the United States invited me to air my ideas on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy I started by “goggling” the name of Michael Tracy, my main academic reference when I was as a visiting professor in the Technical University of Lisbon on “Common Agricultural Policy”, fifteen years ago.
Surprise, surprise, no comments on the CAP but one fascinating, short and balanced article on the Lisbon Treaty that concludes by saying:
The Lisbon Treaty, unfortunately, resembles the camel that must have been designed by a committee. Provisions aimed at making EU decision-making more effective are counter-balanced by others seeking to limit its powers in the interests of greater democracy. As a result, it is questionable whether it will achieve either, or whether it will make the EU institutions more popular.
This is particularly regrettable since the lack of popular support means that there is no chance of any further treaty changes in the foreseeable future.

It is indeed Michael Tracy style, joining concrete observations on the actors, philosophical thoughts on the essence and acute comments on the procedure, all of them put together in an English writing that continental Europeans understand, legacy from his presence at the European institutions, I presume.
I would subscribe to Michael Tracy’s analysis and conclusions with some qualifications. I believe we can say the Treaty is more democratic, thinking in the Habermas sense of the word, that is, a consensus building mechanism.
The multiplication of co-decision procedures and of political actors and bodies, and the growing intricacy and complexity of the decision making process, however, makes it ever more impossible for the European people to understand who is who and to enable electors to take relevant decisions in European elections.
As I argued ineffectively a an MEP, this drives Europe more far away from a democracy in the Popper sense of the word, and, furthermore, as facts proved how excruciatingly and energy consuming a Treaty revision is (and with the present procedures, the outcome will always be like a camel drawn in a committee), we can forget about bringing any substantial changes to it, as Tracy also argues in a very clear way.
But, then again, if there is a positive aspect of the Lisbon Treaty, it is the full implication of the European Parliament in the decision process regarding agriculture, including the termination of the so-called “obligatory expenditure” clause, by which the Council formerly excluded the Parliament from having a say on the CAP budget (and several other less important issues).
On the reverse side of the equation, the Parliament lost heavily on its budgetary powers by accepting to cede its powers of co-decision on the Financial Framework Programme that now is fully institutionalised in the Treaty.
It will depend on the will and skill of the European institutional players to know what this new legal framework will actually mean, a status-quo, a marginalisation of the Parliament from the decision-making process or an actually reinforced parliamentary power.
One way or the other, as always, it is for the European Commission to start the game, and at the moment it is not quite clear how it will do it. Commission already accomplished the fastidious task of showing democratic credentials by hearing everyone on what are their priorities regarding the future. It promised it would make a report summarising the results of the thousands of contributions it got, quite in the European Commission style.
So once they conclude they already finished this annoying business of hearing the people, they will have to decide whether they will drag from the dustbin – where former Commissioner Fisher-Boehl sent it – the famous paper informing the budgetary mid-term review or if they will create a milder version of it, paying lip-service to their former commitments, or still if they will just side-step the whole issue and start preparing for a real kick-off paper by the end of 2010.
The leaked mid-term review paper, however, was a boring repetition of the André Sapir economist’s committee recommendations for the present financial perspectives 2007-2013, making of agriculture and cohesion a sort of pork-barrel expenditure from the past that was necessary to scrap in favour of the rest, presumed to be expenditure that counts.
Whatever choice they make, I think the present mid-term review exercise is dead for practical purposes, so the real and effective lobbying season is starting now.
One thing is certain: the debate for the 2020 priorities will turn around the future of CAP, whether one wants to refocus its content, to rethink its relations with both cohesion and conservation or to rethink its weight in the context of the budgetary and modernising debates.
And if the mid-term-review is dead for practical purposes, it is worth paying attention to the most complete, coherent and rational proposal for the future, the CAP 2020 proposal from a gathering of environmental associations that, somehow surprisingly, was for the most endorsed and revitalised by the European Landowners Association.

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