Frans Andriessen, former Commissioner for Agriculture, met with Rose O’Donovan, editor of Agra Facts / Agra Focus, in the context of the celebrations marking the 50th Anniversary of the CAP.
Mr Andriessen, who was Agriculture Commissioner from 1985 to 1989, sketches out the context of his term. The 1980s en 1990s marked an era of over-production, Europe’s Agricultural policy was known for its butter mountains and wine lakes. At that moment, the Common Agricultural Policy was amongst the most important common policies of the EU, as the Commission had most significant competences in the fields of agriculture & competition.
One of the most prominent policies was the introduction of milk quotas, which sought to temper production around the mid-eighties. On the one hand, big agriculture producers objected as they couldn’t produce at full capacity. Regular farmers, on the other hand, were happy as they now could anyhow obtain a certain production level with certainty.
The former Commissioner continues by discussing the process of negotiating a CAP budget, which was met with quite some critique as it entailed pumping taxpayers’ money directly into public intervention policies. However, the fact that agriculture was vital for some of the largest EU Member States, such as France, Germany and Italy, made negotiations somewhat easier.
When Ray MacSharry took over as Agriculture Commissioner, Andriessen became Commissioner for Trade. This position marked his third consecutive term as a European Commissioner. The Dutchman started on Competition in 1981 before moving onto Agriculture in 1985.
Andriessen feels that CAP today has become easier to sell to the general public, as the political scope of the Commission became wider over the years. Agriculture is not as dominant anymore as it was back then. Moreover, the CAP budget is significantly lower nowadays, especially when one approaches it from a relative perspective and compares it to the EU budget as a whole.