What’s your resolution for 2014?

Looking at the way the financial framework for the next EU-Budget is prepared for 2014, one cannot avoid thinking that there is a labeling exercise ongoing more than constructive thinking on how the money could be spend best.

The challenge for the new budget seems to be to adopt it to the new goals of the so-called Agenda 2020 which is the follow-up strategy of ‘Lisbon 2010’ supposed to promote European growth and competitiveness.

The problem that this process of adaption reveals is twofold: Firstly,  there are far too many goals in the Agenda 2020 so that nearly everything from climate to health to employment is a desirable.  However, there isn’t much money in the EU-budget: the ambitions exceed the resources by far. Secondly, some of these goals are conflicting. Interestingly enough, small sized and ecologically tuned agriculture may torpedo climate goals. For example, the 10,000 liter cow is – under pure CO2 aspects – more efficient than the 5,000- liter cow. But certainly the latter is not only happier but corresponds more to what the EU considers  a sustainable agriculture that is in accordance with nature. So the question is what is more important: the climate or the environment?

This situation is an open invitation for those who do not want to change anything in the budget. Where the new has difficulties shaping, the old has the charm of already existing – and perhaps just needs some polish to be decreed as being new.

2 weeks ago,  I attended a hearing of the European Parliament where experts tried to develop and explore how the 2014 budget could be adopted to the ‘Agenda 2020’ goals. The Parliament is in charge to provide the parliamentary avis to the Commission, which then can present its proposals by June 2011. Listening to some of the experts, you got the idea that agriculture is today mostly about health since it provides good food, especially if the EU continues to support small farmers, regional agriculture and the ‘slow food’ movement.The best way to comply with the health goals of the Agenda 2020 is to continue with Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is the argument. This is not only compelling, but also has the advantage of being easy.

And although the CAP still accounts for some 40% of the overall EU budget, I wonder whether all the very justified goals of the Agenda 2020 can be reached via subsiding farmers in Poland, France and elsewhere. The EU finds itself in a deep crisis, which might be taken as an opportunity to finally sacrifice the CAP and adapt the budget to the new needs of the 21st century Union. The EU needs modernization, public policies, trans-Europeans nets, modern trains, super-grids for sustainable energy and a lot of things that go beyond agricultural subsidies. This is the end of 2010, time for the EP to have some good resolutions for 2014.

Ulrike Guérot

About Ulrike Guérot

Ulrike Guérot is Senior Policy Fellow and Head of the Berlin Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations(ECFR). The office focuses on advocacy and research related to German-Franco relations, EU-US relations and the broader geo-strategic perspectives of the European Union at large. The office has built a high-level network with policy-makers, government officials, think-tankers and academics. Dr. Guérot is member of the executive board of Europa-Professionell.