European Perspectives on the Recession
Edited by David Howden
Chapter 11: Compounding Agricultural Poverty: How the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is Strangling European Recovery
Brian Ó Caithnia The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the pride of European integrationism since its inception. It has been the crowning glory of technocracy and the ultimate statement of unity in post-war Europe. Founded as part of the Treaty of Rome1 in 1957, the CAP has consumed at times up to 70 percent of the EU budget2 and has embodied the European Union’s (EU) desire to maintain economic self-sufficiency. The integrity of the CAP has been equated by some with the integrity of the essential political fabric of the EU itself (Hasha, 1999). For decades, however, the CAP has also come under a significant amount of criticism from economists for consuming a disproportionate share of the EU budget, introducing market distortions, wasting government funds and contributing to rural inequities. Nevertheless, it has survived many attempts to abolish it, and has acquired a reputation for being virtually impossible to reform in any meaningful way. There are few EU programs where one finds such broad political consensus among the member states. In 2005, Jacques Chirac the French president said, ‘I am not willing to make the slightest concession on the common agricultural policy . . . The CAP is the future’ (Open Europe, 2005, p. 3). José Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, said, ‘On reform of the CAP, France and Spain have a common position’ (Open Europe, 2005, p. 3). Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, said, ‘I believe that calls for CAP reform are misplaced because they are based on a misunderstanding of...
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