Europe and Central Asia
22 Jan 2015

The Common Agricultural Policy in 2015: looking for results

By Ariel Brunner
By Trees Robijns

A rereading of the final legal text together with all the implementing and delegated acts and rules is killing our enthusiasm quite quickly. All eyes are now on simplification, implementation and whether we are finally getting any positive consequence on the ground at all.

2015 will be another interesting year in the field of agriculture. After five long years of talks, we will finally start seeing the results of the famous greening of the Common Agricultural Policy getting implemented. CAP reform 2014-2020 will become a reality, at last!

Even if some excitement should be in place, we have all been waiting for this moment for way too long, a rereading of the final legal text together with all the implementing and delegated acts and rules is killing our enthusiasm quite quickly. The reasons for optimism for greening or any other environmental delivery coming out of this CAP reform are low or non-existent. That is why for BirdLife, following and commenting on the implementation is crucial in 2015.

While for greening, we already know in broad terms what will be happening; for Rural Development many decisions still need to be taken or validated by the Commission. BirdLife and its partners will be very much involved in the finalization of the Rural Development Programmes, helping governments and the Commission to make difficult decisions on how to put limited resources on extensive demands. BirdLife is already involved in almost all EU countries to participate in the process and will continue to do this.

BirdLife will also be going more than ever back to its roots. Those who think that we are just arguing over the words green and sustainable, are getting it wrong. What we are really interested in is what farmers and land managers are doing on the ground and what effects this will have on farmland biodiversity. What will be the state of species like skylarks, yellow hammers, ducks and geeze, partridge, corn crake, etc. This year we will be bringing out some big reports that will show the results of our extensive scientific research informing deiciosn makers and other actors in the field on the latest state of farmland biodiversity.

And we will not just be monitoring the birds; we will be looking at the landscape and how it is or it is not changing. Will there be more or less diversity in or outside of the fields; more or less monocultures, more or less landscape features such as hedges, tree lines, buffer strips between fields; wet field corners, little rivers, bushes, etc. They are all important for our countryside, not just for the wildlife that needs it for food and shelter but also for the many insects that are beneficial for farming such as bees and earth worms, pollinating the crop or working the fertility of the soil. It is important as the cultural form that our landscapes have gotten over time, is what makes them so attractive on the front of brochures sold to the many tourists that are visiting rural areas in Europe every year. BirdLife will keep an eye on this evolution and bring out the good and the bad stories going on with implementation.

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In the middle of all this implementation and monitoring, we will be carefully listening to what our new Commissioner for agriculture and rural development has to say: will it only be simplification that he is interested in or will a new vision for agriculture slowly be appearing on the table? We know that the Commissioner is under heavy pressure to simplify a policy, but we also know – with a special thanks to Professor Matthews to remind us in one of his latest articles– that this has been a mantra repeated by every agriculture commissioner in office over the last 20 odd years. In his busy agenda ranging from geographical indications to fruit and vegetables and simplifying the regulations implementing the Common Market Organisation, we will be taking specific interest in his proposals to review the rules around the much discussed Ecological Focus Areas. The only part of the greening with still some options for delivery are under heavy fire from the farm lobby and Member States with short sighted administrative simplification agendas without delivery commitments. In these times, BirdLife will evaluate the proposals of the Commission while doing its best to come up with other ideas for simplification that are not killing the purpose of the measure itself.

Finally, 2015 will be the year in which the monitoring results will be more than ever needed to inform a new way forward. Previous CAP reform exercise has thought us that greening pillar one is not easy and might even never really happen, hence BirdLife will be looking with fresh eyes at CAP and what it wants from the policy. When implementation is not showing improvements on the ground and farmland biodiversity keeps declining at alarming rates, the failure of this reform will open up new routes to getting those results. Routes that are moving us away from pillar 1 and towards other more exciting was.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.