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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let CAP take the Lyon’s share

Two weeks ago, in Merida (Spain), the UK’s new Agriculture Minister Caroline Spelman called for “reduction and re-orientation” of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) spending. “We cannot leave aside the fact that Europe is without money”, she said.

Unfortunately, Ms. Spelman’s demands seem not to have made it across the Pyrenees. In fact, last Tuesday in Strasbourg the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development endorsed a report on the future of CAP after 2013. Unsurprisingly, the report wasn’t exactly calling for fundamental reform of the CAP – MEPs remain staunch defenders of this wasteful policy.

The text reads as follows: “To meet the new priorities and the expectations of all EU member States, the CAP budget amount needs to be at least maintained at 2013 levels in the context of the new financial perspectives”.

You don’t need to be a seasoned Eurocrats to understand that “at least maintained” probably means “increased”.

Now, this seems like business as usual – the UK is trying its best to reform a policy which is protectionist and 50 years out of date (and which still absorbs more than one third of the whole EU budget every year, despite the fact that less than 5% of Europeans work in the agricultural sector), with the usual suspects (the European Parliament, France, Spain, etc.) doing everything to stop such effort.

Only thing is, this time the report was drafted by… a British Lib Dem MEP! The MEP in question is George Lyon (see the picture above), representing Scotland.

In other words: while at home the coalition is preaching the need to cut waste and reform the EU budget, in Strasbourg a Lib Dem MEP drafts a report opposing any downsize of one of the most wasteful and irrational spending programmes in recent history – the CAP. That the Conservatives and the Lib Dems aren’t on the same wavelength on Europe is one thing, but that the Lib Dems are sending out such “mixed” signals on a key EU policy is concerning, to say the least…

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