Safe, healthy food and support for improving rural life got top priority from citizens in future member states when asked about the way the EU should use its agricultural policy in a recent Eurobarometer poll.

The poll indicates that 88% consider that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should be used to achieve these ends. A clear majority (67%) favours the direction that the CAP is taking, with less subsidy for agricultural products and more funds for the development and protection of the rural economy together with direct support to farmers. The survey also shows that most citizens in the future member states expect that the CAP will be favourable for farmers, for consumers, for the food industry, and for the environment in the countryside as well.

Comparing the results of this survey with a similar one taken in the EU last year reveals that citizens in both current and future EU member states give broadly similar support to most of the CAP’s objectives.

Along with some high expectations of the CAP, the survey showed that fears exist too, especially in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, that the introduction of EU-level agricultural policies will be more unfavourable than favourable for farmers. It is also clear that much remains to be done in informing the general public in the new member states about the concept and aims of the CAP, since the current level of knowledge is low, the best informed being the Polish (36% aware of the CAP) and the Slovenes (31%).

Commenting on the poll, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries stated: “Safe and healthy food is clearly a priority for all European citizens, as this survey shows. Concerns for the environment and the need to support a vibrant rural economy from all points of view are shared by citizens in both the current and future member states, and these concerns are being thoroughly addressed in the CAP reform proposals made by the Commission this January.”

The survey was carried out amongst a representative sample of the populations of 13 countries (the ten set to join the EU in 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, the accession countries Bulgaria and Romania, and EU candidate Turkey).

For the full report, click here.