European Union Negotiations: Processes, Networks and Institutions

By Ole Elgström; Christer Jönsson | Go to book overview

5

Reform negotiations

The case of the CAP

Malena Rosén and Magnus Jerneck


Introduction

This is a study of reform negotiations of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP is a policy area well known for its reluctance to change. Ever since its inception as a fully common policy in 1968, with a strong legal base, it has been subject to repeated reform attempts (Roederer-Rynning 2002, 2003). The CAP could thus be assumed to demonstrate clearly the difficulties of reforming the European Union's negotiated order (cf. Elgström and Smith 2000; Green Cowles and Smith 2000). The case under investigation is the Agenda 2000 negotiations (1997-9), which aimed to prepare the European Union for eastern enlargement and a new WTO Round (cf. Schwaag Serger 2001).

The objectives of the CAP were set out in the Rome Treaty (Article 39). These objectives were clearly marked by the state of agriculture in the immediate postwar Europe, where food shortages were a reality for many Europeans. Securing the supply of agricultural products therefore became the main priority, which would be achieved through artificially high prices within the Common Market in order to stimulate production. In order to secure farmers' incomes, the Community also committed itself to buying surplus production, which could not be sold at the prices set.

However, the development of modern agricultural technology, in combination with the stimulation for increased production generated by the high prices, soon reversed the situation for agricultural products: too much, instead of not enough, was produced in the Community. This was already the situation when the CAP became a fully common policy in 1968. The Agriculture Commissioner at the time, Mansholt, launched the first reform proposal of the CAP that same year. In 1972 a watered-down version of his proposal was put into effect. However, the CAP remained essentially unreformed (Ingersent et al. 1998:2). This was a pattern which would repeat itself in the years to come.

One solution to get rid of the mounting surpluses was to subsidize exports, selling the products cheaply outside the Common Market. But with growing surpluses this solution became extremely costly, and with increasing trade liberalization it also became a recurrent issue of dispute between the Community and other actors on the world market. Pressures for change, from within the Community as well as from trade partners externally, increased during the 1980s and 1990s.

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