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From our correspondent in Brussels

Romanian designated commissioner for Agriculture favours direct payments, but on criteria excluding historical reference

Vineri, 15 ianuarie 2010, 15:40 English | Politics

Dacian Ciolos was subject to EC hearings today, Friday, in the European Parliament, after being designated Agriculture Commissioner. During hearings, he supported the need to continue the direct payments' system, but on reformed criteria. He supports the second Common Agricultural Policy (PAC) pillar, because the agriculture is closely connected with the rural environment and believes that here are the solutions to develop agriculture in the new member states ant solutions to fund small farms. The hearing concluded in the applause of the participants.

The hearing started at 10 am local time. The commission’s president was Italian Paolo de Castro. Ciolos was saluted and encouraged by Romanian MPEs. Besides the members of the hearing commission, Sabin Cutas and Marian-Jean Marinescu were also present. Dacian Ciolos held his introductory speech in Romanian.

Dacian Ciolos' statements:

  • With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the agricultural family is consolidated and I want to assure I will consolidate this reality if you will support my role.
  • The AGRI Commission is a good example of diversity, a diversity that I want to promote.
  • I come from a country that had been through collectivisation, through Revolution, only to find its way to Europe. My interest for the European construction, beyond my convictions addressing freedom and fundamental rights, developed in a very close connection with the interest for rural development.
  • I learnt that nobody can understand agriculture from behind an office, but through a real dialogue with he farmers. PAC adapted constantly to internal needs and progress, but also to international evolutions. Nothing that we have achieved so far is a product with a unlimited guaranty. Agriculture isn't just a food producer, but a public goods producer as well.
  • My main objective will be to define PAC after 2013. European farmers want predictability and stability, consumers want god products and tax payers want their money to be spent efficiently.
  • The next PAC need to remain a European Policy, robust and balanced, based on three components: i believe that direct payments have proved their viability and play a role in preserving stability for the farmers' incomes. We'll have to consider the manner and criteria of their distribution and to decide on realistic grounds. We need better equity between farmers.
  • The mechanisms of normalising a market that needs to contribute to the PAC aims and correct the market deficiencies, giving a rapid and flexible answer to the market's variations. The market had to continue playing a regulating role and I intend to be firm in this sense, but we cannot afford crises to affect entire sectors in the food industry in vulnerable regions. The volatility of prices in the agricultural-food sector from the last years shows that we need to come up with new and adapted solutions. I am convinced that we will find them together.
  • The rural development policy needs to continue the development of the agricultural sector. To adapt to climate change. The diversity of European agriculture will need a better use, to promote the private-public partnership, and we need to do this working closely with the cohesion policy.
  • When we speak about PAC, we not only speak about our food, of what we lay on the table, but about several million jobs.

During the first Q&A session, MPEs wanted to know more about his PAC vision, of direct payments and specific criteria for thier allocation, as well as his evaluation of the OMC negotiations on PAC. On the other hand, MPEs from new member states wanted to know his vision on the agricultural development in these countries and on their capacity to face market competition.

Here are several answers Dacian Ciolos gave 

PAC, policy reform and direct payments

  • PAC needs a reform for a better adaptation to the current context. We've got 27 member states, a bigger diversity and I find it essential to ensure the farmers' incomes through this reform. You can be certain that my intention is not reform for reform's sake, but to find new solution to adapt to the current situation. This is my position in regards to PAC and in regards to international negotiations addressing agriculture. I can assure you that the dialogue with the European Parliament will not be through the press, but one to one.

Straight aids attribution criteria

  • The reform is to insure a batter re-balance of aids repartition among farmers, various regions and various member states. The historic reference is not adequate anymore and I will consider criteria that will provide a re-balance tendency. There will be conditions for a better justification of this financial aid to tax payers, there will also be eco-conditions.
  • Asked whether by making a clear difference between pillar I - subventions - and pillar II - featuring the social aspect, ecology, climate change, small farmers - he replied: The two pillars do not aim a different agriculture, but the same agriculture, because the European agriculture is very diverse, we've got more than two".
  • In his opinion, the active farmer is the one to "ensure food production, who takes an income for activity and offers society certain public goods, closely connected with his professional productive activity.
  • On pay per hectare as mechanism: Hectare subventions are for the new member states, there you've got this mechanism. What it has already been decided is to rely on a firm subvention, namely the aids the farmers have received so far. I believe we must have a uniform approach at the EU level, because we've got two systems - farm systems in older members, and hectare systems in newer members. We need a single mechanism, but which should consider the specificity and insure equity.
  • The EU agricultural sector changed a lot during the last years. It still has a great diversity. The reform does not mean the reduction of finance or giving up certain tools, but the search of solutions in order to adapt to current realities.

The milk quotas would represent a step back into history
  • It wasn't me who turned my back on them, it was the member states. There has been a meeting in the Council where this decision was taken. If we were to reconsider it, there would be an unbalance. The solution is not to go back in the past, but to find solutions and thus create opportunities for producers. The quotas are not an adapted mechanism, but this does not hinder us from finding adapted mechanisms for the milk sector, especially in the unprivileged areas.

The PAC budget

  • I believe that the current budget will allow PAC to function and I'm in favour of keeping this budget. If it were only up to the Agriculture commissioner, it should be a very consistent one. I will bring arguments in the college to keep a consistent budget, because if we want PAC to provide not only agricultural products, but also other products, we need support for the farmers. We can't build a consistent PAC unless we've got the money.
  • For a common agricultural policy we need a common budget

Watch here Dacian Ciolos' hearing recording

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