A European Commission Stakeholder Group have today called for a Fitness Check of the Common Agricultural Policy. This official statement supports the position of An Taisce and other members of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) who have consistently stated that a thorough assessment of the CAP is the only way to untangle the Gordian knot of conflicting policies within. This obvious necessity is still opposed by National governments as well as a range of industry and civil society groups.

The REFIT Platform Stakeholder group recommends "that a Fitness Check of the CAP should be a short term priority for inclusion in the European Commission’s 2017 Work Programme in order to inform the next round of CAP reform for the period post-2020 and the design of future interventions."

‘Agriculture and Rural Development’ has been identified by the Stakeholder Group as one of three priority policy areas for the REFIT Platform to address, and most of these suggestions relate directly to the CAP.

Undertaking a Fitness Check of the CAP now is the best way to identify the scope for reducing regulatory burdens whilst also improving value for money and ensuring the achievement of the objectives pursued particularly in relation to Pillar 1.

According to the EEB under the CAP around 53 billion EUR per year is given to farmers which represents approximately 40% of the EU budget. With almost 50% of the EU land area under farming, improving agricultural practices are crucial to achieving existing EU policy goals. Despite successive reforms however including the last one, there continues to be widespread evidence of significant inefficiencies across a range of indicators. For example it is meant to provide income support to all farmers yet 70% goes to 20% of farmers, mostly cereal. The state of nature in Europe is worst for farming dependent ecosystems, with for instance a 53% decline of common farmland birds since the 80s.

The recently reformed CAP is unlikely to change much in this regard with first evidence that Member States are unlikely to be using the already weak greening measures put in place. A Fitness Check of the CAP is the only way to ensure a rigorous fact based and un-biased review of the available evidence on how the new CAP is delivering towards the objectives of viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and balanced territorial development. This could yield significant gains either in terms of reduced expenditure for achieving the same goals or achieving more ambitious goals for the same amount of money.