The Steps Ahead
The legislative process for the new CAP and the next long-term EU budget is complex. The main actors are the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. This section explains the decision-making procedure, provides a timeline for the key decision-making stages and highlights some of the uncertainties involved.
The basic legislative steps towards a new CAP are:
- the Commission develops a legislative proposal in several stages of consultations and submits it to the Council, composed of the national ministers of agriculture
- the Council agrees on a text through qualified majority voting which it sends to the Parliament
- the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the Parliament agrees on a text which is then amended and voted upon in the plenary of the Parliament by simple majority
- if the text of the Parliament differs from the text of the Council, it is sent back to the Council which then has to agree on a revised text
- the text is adopted once Council and Parliament agree; the legislative undertaking has failed if they disagree three times
The legislative procedure for the new long-term EU budget is almost identical. The main difference is that the Council, this time composed of the finance ministers, has to decide by unanimity. Important decisions on the new budget may also be taken at the summits of the heads of state (called European Councils).
- Nov 2008: Conference Reforming the Budget, Changing Europe where 300 contributions from stakeholders and 3 scientific studies on the budget review were presented - mostly expressing strong criticism of the CAP.
- Nov 2009: The draft conclusions on the budget review leak from the Commission, calling for significant cuts in the CAP budget. The draft is heavily criticized by defenders of the CAP, including Mariann Fischer-Boel, then-Commissioner for Agriculture, and disappears into the bin.
- June 2010: Own-initiative report by the European Parliament on the post-2013 CAP.
- July 2010: DG Agriculture organizes a major stakeholder conference in Brussels.
- September 2010: A Franco-German position paper on CAP reform is published.
- November 2010: The Communication on CAP reform from DG Agriculture leaks.
- November 2010: Commission conclusions on the budget review outline options and indicate preferred directions of budget reform, including the CAP.
- November 2010: The French Ministry of the environment breaks ranks with the Ministry of agriculture by publishing its own vision ‘For a sustainable agricultural policy in 2013’.
- November 2010: DG Agriculture communication on the post-2013 CAP describes reform options and preferred directions for the CAP in greater detail.
What can be anticipated is this (with likely time ranges in brackets):
- EP budget committee vote on the budget review report (March 2011).
- Commission communication on the long-term EU budget (possibly April 2011).
- EP plenary vote on the budget review report (May 2011).
- Commission legislative proposals for the CAP and the EU long-term budget (June 2011) sent to the Council under the Polish EU Presidency.
- Council-Parliament negotiations: The Council agrees on legislative texts for the CAP and the entire EU long-term budget and sends them to the Parliament (decided probably at December 2011 Council, still under the Polish Presidency, alternatively in the first half of 2012 under the Danish Presidency). Agreement between the Council and the Parliament can be expected by the end of 2012 under the Cypriotic Presidency or in the first half of 2013 under the Irish Presidency.
- Entry into effect of the new CAP and the EU long-term budget is foreseen for January 1, 2014. If the legal text can only be finalized in 2013, its implementation may have to be delayed until January 2015. If no agreement on a new EU long-term budget can be obtained, the 2013 budget also applies to 2014.
It is difficult to anticipate how the different bodies involved in decision-making will interact.
- Will the heads of state first determine the CAP budget, and possibly certain spending priorities within the CAP, and leave farm ministers with the secondary role of working out the details? Or will farm ministers agree on the objectives, instruments, and budget needs of the future CAP and present the heads of state with a comprehensive blueprint?
- Will the European Parliament, whose position has been strengthened through the Lisbon Treaty, become as influential as the Council of Ministers? Will the Commission and the Council be responsive to the positions of the Parliament or will the Parliament clash with the Council?
- What will be the influence of the heads of states, who come together as the European Council? Will the new President of the European Council, elected for 2.5 years according to the Lisbon Treaty, exercise a leadership role in the negotiations of the next long-term EU budget?