Category Archives: Agriculture and Fisheries

OLAF Activity Report 2010: the Usual Suspect

We now have the 2009 report of the European anti-fraud office, OLAF. The report outlines a number of case studies – misuse of Parliamentary expenses by an ex-MEP, embezzlement by the director of an NGO, widespread corruption and fraud in the management of the Global Fund in Uganda, etc. However, one Member State takes central stage in the report – and that is, yes, Bulgaria.

There were 68 active investigations in Bulgaria in 2009 – the most in any Member state for that period. 26 new cases were opened in 2009 in Bulgaria, out of 32 for the whole European Union. This is really extraordinary given the small population and scale of EU structural funding for Bulgaria. The main reason is that OLAF is currently investigating allegations of widespread fraud in the funding of meat-processing plants in Bulgaria under the SAPARD pre-accession funding program. Now, “allegations” does not mean “committed fraud”, but the issue is very worrying. The main issue here will be to distinguish real fraud cases from administrative irregularities. Given the scale of the investigations, they will have a systemic impact on the meat-processing sector in Bulgaria and thousands of jobs.

Finally: a New Regime for GMO Approval

The Commission has finally made a proposal on a new regime for the approval of genetically modified organisms (GMO). The Commission proposes to confer to Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on part or all of their territory. The general approval of the GMO will still be made on EU level under current rules, but once GMOs are approved, Member States will be able to decide whether to allow the introduction of the GMOs on their territory or not.

After almost 10 years after the adoption of Directive 2001/18/EC the Commission has made a positive step forward for the resolution of this very serious problem. The stalled comitology procedure for the approval of GMOs has been a rare example of systemic institutional failure of the EU (see also the excellent book by Mark Pollack and Gregory Shaffer: When cooperation fails: the international law and politics of genetically modified foods). Now, hopefully, this will change.

Given the fact that both the biotech industry and the environmentalists criticize the proposal, there may be a grain of salt to it.

European Parliament Positions on Financial Regulation and Agriculture

The European Parliament has outlined its policy preferences on two very important subjects – financial regulation reform and the Common agricultural Policy (CAP).

On financial regulation the EP wants a strengthening of the powers of the three European supervisory authorities (ESAs) – the European Banking Authority, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, and the European Securities and Markets Authority. The Parliament wants for the ESAs to be able to issue decisions directly to a financial institution such as a bank, where the national supervisor has not been able to change some of its practices that are considered unsound. The ESAs would also have the power to settle disputes between national supervisors.

On the Common Agricultural Policy the European Parliament says that funding should be maintained “at least maintained during the next financial period” (2013-2020). MEPs call for more objective criteria, partly to reduce disparities in direct payments, considering the current “hectare basis” inappropriate, and partly to reflect regional diversity. The Parliament believes that geographical indications of origin need to be strengthened and enforced. The EP proposes strengthening producers’ bargaining power in the food supply chain vis-à-vis the retailers and other players and improving price transparency. This position aligns the Parliament with the position of Member States that oppose a radical reform of the CAP. The Commission and other Member States, however, believe that the funding for the CAP should be reduced, and used elsewhere for boosting the overall competitiveness of the EU.

Public Debate on the Future of European Agriculture

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş, has launched a public debate on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the European Union. The debate will focus on the Common Agricultural Policy’s future, objectives, principles and contribution to the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy to inform the preparatory work for the decision-making process.

An independent body will then produce a summary of these contributions. In July 2010, the European Commission will organise a conclusive conference on the public debate. The Commission will present its communication on CAP in the end of 2010.

Report on the Public Goods Provided by Agriculture

A new, comprehensive report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy evaluates the concept of public goods as applied to agriculture in Europe and assesses the feasibility of policy support for the provision of public services by agriculture.

According to the report there are many public goods supplied by agriculture, such as farmland biodiversity, water quality, water availability, soil functionality, climate stability, air quality.

The report finds out that the public highly values environmental public services. According to the report there is a large potential for highly productive farming systems that adopt environmentally beneficial production and provide public services. Such practices include less intrusive agriculture, energy efficiency improvements and targeted measures such as the use of buffer strips.

Pizza Napoletana in the Official Journal

Sometimes reading the Official Journal of the European Union has its benefits. Today we have the Regulation (EU) No 97/2010 entering a name in the register of traditional specialities guaranteed [Pizza Napoletana (TSG)]. What is remarkable about the regulation is the recipe for preparing the pizza napoletana (pp. 10-12). From personal experience I can highly recommend this specialty.