Blog: Dean BestEU subsidy liberalisers in the ascendancy

Dean Best | 4 June 2009

Supporters of liberalising the EU’s common agriculture policy (CAP) and other food subsidy regimes can expect a helping hand from the new Swedish presidency of the EU from 1 July.

Sweden has traditionally allied itself with Britain, the Netherlands, and eastern European liberalisers in the EU Council of Ministers, which it will chair for six months until the end of this year.

And in a 27-member state EU, the power of the presidency in controlling debates and agendas, while brokering agreements, means that these days it has a lot more influence than in the past. Then, in a smaller EU, like-minded countries - notably Germany and France - were able to stitch up many deals to reflect the historic compromise behind the former European Economic Community: Brussels subsidies for French food producers in return for German access to European markets for its industrial goods.

This deal has largely held over the years, but with 27 member states, food industry liberalisers now have a much greater say.

As a result, recent statements from Sweden’s agriculture minister Eskil Erlandsson at a recent meeting of EU agriculture ministers will encourage the UK and its allies. He said his government would push general rural development spending at the expense of food production subsidies. “It's very important to have a common agricultural policy but it will have less money,” he warned.

These coupled with recent European Commission-Sweden talks on how to push ahead with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha Development Round (where a deal will inevitably further cut EU food subsidies) are a clear sign that liberalisers will be in the ascendancy in Brussels in late 2009.

And this is especially good news for them given the beating received by the free competition model during the current recession.

Keith Nuthall, reporter


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