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EU’s Common Agricultural Policy favours richest regions

Support of over €90bn each year under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goes predominantly to the richer, core regions of Europe, according to a new study published this week. And current proposals for reform of the CAP will do little to change this.

According to Professor Mark Shucksmith, of the University of Aberdeen, “This works against the EU’s Cohesion Policy which seeks to reduce the disparities between the prosperous core and the poorer, more peripheral regions of Europe.”

At a conference on the Future of Rural Development on Thursday, December 9, in Aberdeen, researchers will present the results of a two-year study of the territorial impacts of the CAP. The principal conclusion is that in aggregate the CAP works against the EU objectives of balanced territorial development and economic and social cohesion.

Most support to EU farmers comes not from taxpayers but from consumers paying higher prices for food. This Market Price Support (estimated by OECD at €56bn), together with Direct Payments (€27bn) from the EU to farmers, comprises “Pillar 1” of the CAP, and this overwhelmingly favours the more prosperous core areas of Europe rather than poorer peripheral regions.

The newer and smaller Rural Development Regulation measures (Pillar 2 - €4.6bn), such as agri-environmental and Less Favoured Area payments, surprisingly also go predominantly to the richer regions of the EU, although they are less concentrated in Europe’s core. This is because these measures are mainly used by the richer countries of NW Europe.

Moreover, the proposals for CAP reform currently working through the Mid-Term Review will do little to change this pattern.

Despite this, there is scope for the CAP to be brought more into line with EU cohesion objectives, according to Professor Shucksmith. “On the basis of our analysis we suggest that the main scope for achieving this is through gradually realigning and increasing the funding for Pillar 2 – the Rural Development Regulation. In accordance with DG Agriculture’s recent proposals, we recommend more emphasis be given to broader measures which promote sustainable rural development beyond the agricultural sector, building on the successes of the EU’s LEADER programme.

“Of course, the more that WTO negotiations lead to reductions in EU Market Price Support, through reductions in border protection and a convergence of EU prices with world prices, the greater the resulting consistency of the CAP with cohesion objectives,” said Professor Shucksmith.

At present, only €4.6bn out of the total €98bn annual support is devoted to rural development (Pillar 2), and most of this is only available to farmers.

The researchers also suggest that the EU Commission might explore models through which single farm payments are modulated more progressively in richer regions of the EU, for example according to farm business size, so as to concentrate support more effectively on those farmers and those regions which most need support.

 This research was led by The Arkleton Institute for Rural Development Research at the University of Aberdeen, with partners from Austria, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Spain and Hungary. It was conducted within the framework of the ESPON 2000-2006 programme, partly financed by the EU INTERREG programme. The partnership behind the ESPON programme consists of the EU Commission and the member states of the EU-25 plus Norway and Switzerland. The research findings do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the members of the Monitoring Committee. The study has now been completed and will be published by CABI as a book, CAP and the Regions early in 2005.

 A fuller summary of this report is available on the Arkleton Institute’s website at The book CAP and the Regions, edited by Mark Shucksmith, Ken Thomson and Deb Roberts, may be ordered from CABI at

 The results of this project will be presented at a one-day conference on the Future of Rural Development on Thursday, December 9, at King’s College, University of Aberdeen. The full programme may be found at the Arkleton Institute’s website, noted above. Members of the press are welcome to attend.

 A map showing the distribution of the EU Pillar 1 support per Agricultural Work Unit in 1999 is available. This includes Market Price Support and Direct Payments to farmers. Please contact Angela Ferguson, Communications Office, University of Aberdeen on: (01224) 272960 to be sent an electronic copy of the map.

 More details of the EU’s LEADER programme may be found at the EU website:

 For further information contact:

Professor Mark Shucksmith, University of Aberdeen:(01224) 272360
The Arkleton Institute:01224)273901
Angela Ferguson, Communications Office:01224)272960


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Monday 6th of December 2004

Ref: 1542markshucksmith
Contact: Angela Ferguson

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