Strasbourg, 6 June 2022
60 years ago, the six founding countries of the European Communities concluded an agreement on the first Common Agricultural Policy for Europe.
With the memories of a devastating war and famine still fresh in their minds, they introduced an agricultural policy with common rules to support farming and ensure food supply.
The CAP has constantly evolved over the years, to meet changing budgetary and economic circumstances, and to match the evolving needs of citizens.
However, the original aims of the policy, already established under the Treaty of Rome, have remained unchanged:
- increasing productivity,
- stabilising markets,
- providing fair living standards to farmers,
- assuring the availability of food, and
- ensuring that this food reaches consumers at reasonable prices.
All of these Treaty objectives serve one overriding purpose – Europe’s food security.
The importance of our food security has been reinforced during the time of the pandemic, and now even more so in the time of this cruel war, triggered in Europe by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In particular, these times have shown us that food security is of strategic importance, equal to defence security and energy security.
This was reinforced in the most recent European Council conclusions.
We owe our food security first and foremost to our farmers, those who cultivate the land and keep the animals. We thank them for their efforts.
We also thank workers along the entire food system, such as those in the processing and distribution systems.
Today, it is hard to imagine what European agriculture would be like without the Common Agricultural Policy.
I come from Poland, a part of the European Union which for years remained behind the Iron Curtain.
At a time when the Common Agricultural Policy was beginning to operate, when farmers in western Europe were receiving direct payments and other forms of support, farmers in eastern Europe were facing a much different reality.
They were forced to work on “kolkhozes”, or “collective farms”.
In the case of Poland, farmers were forced to hand over part of their harvest free of charge to the communist authorities, as part of so-called “compulsory supplies”.
This historical experience is still causing visible differences today, in the development of agriculture and rural areas in different parts of Europe. We should reduce these differences as quickly as possible.
In a wider sense, for the CAP to continue making an effective contribution to food security, we must adapt it to current and future challenges.
We must take care to produce the right food today, but also to preserve the potential of our land for tomorrow, for future generations of Europeans.
Fundamentally, we must remember that agriculture is not an industry, land is not a factory, animals are not machines.
That is why we are reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, so that agriculture becomes more friendly for the environment, climate, and animal welfare.
However, we must do more to ensure the stability of farmers’ incomes. We must do more to support them in crisis situations, which, unfortunately, are starting to become more frequent.
We must ensure that living conditions in rural areas are improved, and close the gap between rural and urban conditions. That is the aim of our Long-term Vision for rural areas, adopted in 2021 and targeting significant changes by 2040.
The history of the Common Agricultural Policy fully demonstrates its relevance and success.
And today’s challenges fully demonstrate the need to continue and develop this policy, for the next generation of Europeans.
Source: European Commission