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Open letter to Madame Mariann Fischer Boel,
European Commissioner for Agriculture
by Pierre Pagesse,
Chairman of WOAGRI
I am sending you this open letter since your statements in the Financial Times of 30th December triggered a great deal of indignation and incomprehension among the farming community in France.
Indeed you start by postulating that "there will be less money available (…) and that there should be a discussion with all member states and farmers about how to adapt", implying that the sole aim of the work of the European Commission and European Parliament is that the CAP budget should be reduced.
I suppose, then, that your remarks aim to prepare Europe’s farmers for their role as "intermittent agricultural workers", in such a way that their time is freed up for a second job to supplement their incomes to compensate for the scheduled drop in subsidies. This shows a lack of understanding about the world of farming: our farms are businesses in their own right, requiring complete involvement. Any desire to change this state of mind means putting young people off in advance from devoting themselves to a job that involves both long working hours and financial risks, which may in turn even accelerate the depopulation of the countryside.
Political courage would have us ask about the price first of all, since your statement, by officially recognising the fact that being a farmer means that it is no longer possible to "feed" your own family, also institutionalises the very low agricultural prices on international markets, which are much lower than production costs. Moreover, this situation is the lot of nearly all farmers all over the globe.
As a European by conviction, I have a great deal of respect for European institutions and the men and women who run them. This is why I attach all due value and meaning to your words. This is also why, in my position as chairman of WOAgri, I should like to ask you some questions about the consequences of the remarks you made.
What part does the universal Declaration of human rights, which states that "Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity" play when you make official the non-remuneration of a sector as specific as agriculture for Europe’s food security?
What about the principles of sustainable development, according to which it is vital to respond to the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to respond to their own needs, if Europe commits itself to the cul-de-sac of a reform that is only budgetary and that does not take into consideration the strategic stakes associated with agriculture?
Are you taking into account the principle of precaution within a world which, since the end of the cold war, is once again showing the emergence of new dangers, such as the potential proliferation of nuclear arms and of regional powers who could be tempted to make use of nuclear arms?
Why, then, has Europe chosen this precise moment to dismantle its policy of food sovereignty and to add food dependence, as set out in the principles you are submitting for the next CAP reform, to our energy dependence?
Why can you not hear the voices of farming organisations from 51 countries spread over four continents who, in March 2006, signed a joint declaration calling for those responsible for negotiating at the WTO to pay particular respect to food security for all countries? COPA and COGECA (the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations and the General Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives in the European Union), of which I am a member, is one of the signatories of this declaration, which proposes a vision that is shared by all agricultural organisations in both developed and undeveloped countries!
Following the concessions it agreed at the Hong Kong Summit in December 2005, why would Europe go along with new concessions, even though the poorest countries will not benefit from them?
Finding myself unable to accept such outcomes, I should therefore like to ask you to let me know which path you intend to follow:
> Can you confirm either that it is only a restrictive budgetary logic that guides CAP reform, making it the responsibility of the various European governments to renationalise aid programmes in a way that is compatible with the international trade regulations of the WTO? This would be to confuse means with objectives, since a budgetary calculation is far removed from a strategic political vision.
In this case, you have the moral obligation to let your fellow European citizens know that Europe’s single integrated policy has been permanently discarded, just as we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
> Or can you confirm that the budgetary logic is one of the basic elements of the CAP reform from a much more global perspective, integrating the development of worldwide agriculture, developmental aid and sustainable development?
If this is the case, I should be greatly honoured to meet you in order to present to you the work and proposals of the World Organization for Agriculture, of which I am the president, and which has aims for agriculture all over the world that extend far beyond a part-time job.
At the beginning of this new year, I should like to express my hope that Europe will remain a world power and an economic entity based on a community of know-how and of culture, and that it should not become a free-trade zone that is without joint political will and without a development strategy on a global scale.
I look forward to meeting you and hope to be able to find good reasons for continuing to believe in Europe.
Chairman of WOAGRI