333 delegates representing every EU Member State met in Cork this week to draft a new declaration on the future of European rural development. Twenty years on from the original Cork declaration it is clear that we have failed to align agricultural policies with the imperatives of protecting the environment and tackling climate change. Above all we have failed to improve the lot of the EUs many small farmers and marginal farming communities and the broader rural economy. An Taisce called for a review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as the only logical approach to address the failures of European rural development policy. Not surprisingly this necessity did not form part of the final Cork declaration. While the 10 points put forward by the Cork declaration are all valid it is clearer now than ever that we must strike at the root of our problems if we can hope to turn the tide and build a rejuvenated, vibrant and sustainable rural economy. Notable issues debated twenty years on from the original Cork declaration were the need for climate action, the need to encourage young farmers and young people to return to the countryside and the opportunities presented by rural broadband. The diversification of the rural economy is essential if we are going to deliver the jobs and services demanded by Europes youth. A healthy environment opens opportunities and creates a space where people want to live and raise their children. A polluted environmnet will only exacerbate issues such as rural emigration.

Cork 2.0 declaration – the 10 policy orientations for EU rural development 1. Promoting Rural Prosperity 2. Strengthening Rural Value Chains 3. Investing in Rural Viability and Vitality 4. Preserving the Rural Environment 5. Managing Natural Resources 6. Encouraging Climate Action 7. Boosting Knowledge and Innovation 8. Enhancing Rural Governance 9. Fostering Simplification and Transparency 10.Improving Policy Delivery and Performance

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and BirdLife Europe released the following statement on the Cork 2.0 declaration.

TWEAKING RURAL DEVELOPMENT POLICY WILL NOT DELIVER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND COUNTRYSIDE – FULL CAP OVERHAUL NEEDED https://eeb.org/tweaking-rural-development-policy-will-not-deliver-for-environment-and-countryside-full-cap-overhaul-needed/

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and BirdLife Europe have warned that new proposals (1) made by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to revitalise rural areas and promote sustainable farming will be rendered useless by the current structure of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which works against these new objectives.

Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy, said: “If the European Commission is as serious as it claims about a results-oriented policy then it cannot ignore the fact that the attempt to ‘green’ the policy at the last reform was a failure and is not going to deliver anything for the environment. Small changes to rural development policies will not have any impact unless the CAP as a whole gets a full overhaul.”

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe stated: “The Cork 2.0 declaration is full of good intentions but it carefully avoids the elephant in the room - the fact that most CAP subsidies are used to lock farmers into a failed agriculture model that destroys nature, harms people’s health and pushes farmers out of business. Unless the need to reform CAP subsidies is addressed, this declaration is not worth the paper it’s printed on.”

The EEB and BirdLife Europe’s call (2) for a Fitness Check of the CAP is even more pertinent now that the Cork 2.0 Declaration has shown consensus amongst civil society and stakeholders to move towards an agricultural policy founded on sustainable development. Rural Development objectives can no longer be an afterthought – they must be moved front and centre in a new Food and Farming Policy for Europe.

Notes: [1] Cork 2.0 Declaration 2016 https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/sites/enrd/files/cork-declaration_en.pdf

[2] NGO letter to Commissioner Hogan ahead of Cork 2.0: European Conference on Rural Development http://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/hogan_letter_cork_conference.pdf.

Uncap the Truth, spotlight on EU farming policy https://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/uncap_the_truth_-_spotlight_on_eu_farm_policy.pdf

The hidden truth (Rural Development) https://eeb.org/new-figures-uncover-the-hidden-truth-behind-green-rural-development-funding/ 

Uncap the truth briefing http://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/birdlife_europe_eeb_press_statement_07_09_2016.pdf

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.