sábado, 20 de fevereiro de 2010
Accidental Farmer’s Remarks Bulletin
(III) On Budget
In 1962 European leaders could not agree on a long-term solution for applying the agreed principle of financial solidarity, and the 1962 agricultural financial regulation was valid only for three years.
As an agreement had not been reached in 1965, Walter Hallstein, President of the European Commission, presented his bold proposal for a Community budget based on own resources rather than on contributions from the Member States in front of the European Parliament, instead of the Council.
Otherwise, it is also worth remembering that this bold act from the President of European Commission (that ultimately, made the Council refuse the renewal of his mandate) led to the “empty chair” crisis.
President De Gaulle did not find at all acceptable the idea of having what he considered being a vital interest of France to be dealt with this way, presented to the Parliament for a decision to be taken by a qualified majority in the Council.
French resistance stalled for five years the European Commission plans to fully materialise the third principle of the CAP of financial solidarity, and a European budget only started in 1970. The implementation of the European budget was essential to apply the financial solidarity principle and therefore to prevent centrifuge tendencies to make the European construction to implode.
Several lessons can be taken from the creation of the CAP that are extremely useful for the present debate.
The first is that the CAP was the most difficult and contentious subject in the establishment of the new Economic Community, but it served, more than anything else, to give strength to the new organisation. For instance, the whole of the idea of a European budget came from the need to apply the principle of financial solidarity in CAP.
The second is it is far too simplistic to see the CAP as the demand of France and imposed to the rest of Community. General De Gaulle – no less of a Euro-sceptic than Madame Thatcher – was the main obstacle to the full implementation of the CAP, simply because he could not tolerate to see French sovereignty under the thumb of the “Brussels bureaucrats”.
The whole of the present debate is made as if there was not a yet undisclosed but certainly enormous sets of national budgets supporting agriculture, most likely in a way that is far more damaging of the internal market and with worse environmental effects than the CAP.
One of the lessons I learned from my “accidental farming” was exactly that my national pay check – in the form of subvention to buy cheaper diesel – was far more substantial than the CAP check subsidising my olives. It is true that being a newcomer, having dreams of organic farming and experiencing terrible droughts, I did have very low olives production, and my case is not typical for all farming.
The problem is we do not have trustworthy data on national expenditure with farming that can allow us to really understand what sort of money are we pouring in agriculture, and this debate will not go very far on the basis of statistics.
My political hint is, however, uncontroversial: scrap the CAP’s budget, and one will see much more money being spread out of national, regional or even local authority’s budgets to farming in much more ecologically and market damaging ways than the CAP does.
Getting back to Mansholt, his point on 1968 was exactly that if you would have a European budget to finance market intervention, it would be not understandable that this budget would not finance structural measures as well, which he thought from the start were the vital elements of the CAP.
He faced tremendous opposition, starting by the erroneous idea that he was aiming at making something new, contrary to the original CAP.
In Europe, as it is often the case with a lot of constructions, the myth is one of its essential pillars. The myth of the starving Europeans fed by the CAP goes hand in hand with the myth of the perfect mechanism to meddle with markets that insures the farmer a permanent way of living.
The idea of structural actions to help those who could not continue in agriculture to find a way of living by leaving it, was contrary to the myth, and therefore, the “Mansholt plan” was seen as iconoclastic, instead of a founding pillar of the agricultural vision of Europe that it was.
This means, that there is an alternative way of looking at the reform of the CAP, not necessarily by throwing the whole of it off-board for being too archaic, but to show that at its roots there was a reforming principle, and this reforming principle remains to be fulfilled.
So, instead of frontally attacking the CAP as a historically dated mechanism, we can try instead to propose to return back to the best of its roots.
To start discussing the CAP by discussing the CAP budget will certainly put every contender behind their rigid positions and will freeze all innovative discussion.