The Committee on Agriculture: the priorities for the new term
Interview of Eric Andrieu, Chambers of Agriculture, n°1035, august-september 2014
European institutions have just been renewed with Irishman Phil Hogan appointed as new European Commissioner for agriculture who will take office on 1st November. The European Parliament sees Czelaw Adam Siekierski from Poland appointed as President of the Committee on Agriculture (Comagri) with Frenchman Eric Andrieu as Senior Vice-President.
During the hearing of the new Commissioner for Agriculture, Eric Andrieu asked some particularly judicious questions on the measures the future Commissioner would take to regulate markets in order to deal with inherent market volatility.
In an interview for the Chamber of Agriculture (extract here1), the MEP provided a roadmap for his new term, including the issues he intends to focus on. It is particularly reassuring to see that he considers there is a need for regulatory market tools for the dairy sector, as well as a need for extreme vigilance with regards issues on agriculture in the context of the negotiations for free trade “in order to protect our agricultural interests”.
momagri Editorial Board
What are your priorities for the European Parliament for the 2014-2020 term of office?
From a political point of view, we will continue with the adaptation of the CAP so it promotes diverse forms of agriculture across the EU territory that are economically, socially, and environmentally efficient. Preserving the CAP and its funding will depend largely on its ability to meet the expectations of society, which today are expressed in terms of quality, durability, value added and employment.
As I learned during my first two years as an MEP for the Committee on Agriculture working on CAP reform, a large majority of citizens show a great interest for this public policy, which no longer only interests the agricultural sector or agricultural experts.
By virtue of its function of democratic representation, the European Parliament reflects this new reality, which can no longer be ignored. Bestowed with a real power of legislature; it will no longer admit just any form of public agricultural policy. The CAP’s political legitimacy is at stake and with it, that of its budget (distribution, use) in a financial situation that is more difficult than before.
My priorities for this new term can be punctually presented across the Agricultural Commission’s agenda of the coming months, according to the varying degrees of the European Parliament’s expertise:
Legislature: Several legislative proposals are already on the table.
With the EPP and S & D no longer the majority within European Parliament’s COMAGRI, what kind of developments will the Commission’s parliamentary work lead to?
Among these, I plan to get actively involved in the modification of regulations on organic farming, as well as those relating to programs that encourage the consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk in schools.
Power of initiative: Some projects for initiative reports, which generally allow for the opening up of debate on topical issues or specific problems for challenging and calling for legislation, are already on the agenda. I intend to contribute to two of them: one on the future of the post-quota dairy sector because I believe that tools for market regulation are still required, and that of the future of the fruit and vegetable sector which is still insufficiently organized but generates added value and jobs.
I also plan to submit a proposal for my own-initiative report during the legislature. If Parliament’s Committee for Agriculture agrees, we could establish an initiative report on wine upon the completion of the single market for wine which would enable direct sales between EU countries (including by internet).
I think this legislature should also be an opportunity for developing initiative reports on topics that prepare for future CAP reform by floating a trial balloon over public debate. Reforming the CAP is a long and ongoing process that needs to be continually nourished; if possible, with the ideas of citizens. Topics are open and I hope to work on some of them in cooperation with agricultural organizations.
Legislative watch: during the next 5 years, more attention should be paid to agricultural issues in the context of international trade negotiations (agreements EU/USA, EU/CANADA, EU/MERCOSUR...) in order to protect our agricultural interests. I will work on this not only as a Commissioner for Agriculture, but also as a deputy member of the Trade Commission.
The day after the last European elections, the physiognomy of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development had changed slightly. Certain newcomers such as the representatives of the National Front do not belong to any political group; they haven’t met the conditions for forming a group, so they are among the “unregistered”, which significantly limits their influence.
A sole political group does not hold the majority on the Committee on Agriculture, which means majorities, must be sought among the seven existing groups. And if previously, majorities were built between the EPP and S & D or between some of their members, these alliances have never been systematic; majorities were born from other political groups or some of their members.
The EU Parliament works with “variable geometry” majorities, sometimes right-wing, sometimes left-wing, sometimes formed of a portion of right and left, then through common interests related to particular themes or national issues ... With the new European Parliament, there are no objective reasons for things to change. It should be simply noted that the number of Eurosceptic groups who participated in the creation of majorities has slightly increased. I would also like to point out that we have always had a handful of Europhobic MPs within our assembly. The increase in their number should not be overestimated. And even though there were more of them elected in France on 25th May, this was not the case in all EU states. Past experience tells us that as anti-European and anti-CAP, they have always found themselves distanced from other elected officials, without real influence and unable to create majorities which requires a big investment in ones work and in discretely building relationships with other colleagues. Extreme MPs do not work this way, they are not generally invested in their dossiers, they prefer to stir up commotion and play to the gallery in order to flatter their national electorate. One can even add that by the effect of dispersion of the national vote within the European Parliament, they weaken the weight and influence of their countries in the EU.
How do you plan on playing your new role as the Senior Vice President of COMAGRI?
This appointment is a gesture of trust and confidence from my colleagues and I am grateful to them. These new responsibilities will mean a greater commitment from me within the European Parliament, after two years of intense training as a newly elected member, on CAP reform in particular. My new responsibilities will require me to be more involved in the inner workings of the Committee on Agriculture and position myself on all issues.
These responsibilities will place me at the centre of decision-making process of COMAGRI and the European Parliament on all agricultural and rural issues, allowing me to better represent my political priorities and be more effective in the defence of French interests in Europe in association with Stéphane Le Foll our Minister for Agriculture.
Will the European Parliament redraft delegated acts for the implementation of the new CAP?
Obviously. Firstly, because all delegated acts for the new CAP have not yet been adopted. This is the case, in particular for those relating to new authorizations for vine planting rights to be adopted before the end of the year, and for which I have a very strong interest, as an elected official of a great wine region. The dossiers on wine are one of my priorities. Secondly, because the delegated acts already adopted could be changed at any time if deemed unsuitable. Those delegated acts are extremely important because they constitute the measures for the enforcement of CAP reform prepared by the European Parliament and the Council. By acting on delegated acts, MEPs ensure that the law and the powers of the European Parliament, and therefore those of citizens, are respected. I would like to remind you that the European Parliament may oppose these delegated acts.
1 The full article is available from