MEPs and experts reiterated their support Wednesday for using Common Agricultural Policy surpluses - unused appropriations - to tackle the food crisis in developing countries. Uncertainty about the exceptional nature of the measure and the budgetary procedure were nonetheless not dispelled by this hearing. MEPs also called on EU Member States to abide by their public development assistance commitments.Part of the billion euro must go to buy food for their populations, because grain stocks have never been so low, said rapporteur Gay Mitchell (EPP-ED, IE), but most will go to buy seeds and fertiliser, to help these countries to expand their own food production.
"We must move fast and take decisions, even though one billion euro is not going to solve the food crisis" said Development Committee chairman Josep Borrell (PES, ES).
Support for the EU initiative
Althoughwelcoming the proposal, UN Food and Agricultue OrganiZation Director-General Jacques Diouf observed that it is already too late for the southern hemisphere'splanting season. "We shall have a second opportunity inSeptember-October in the northern hemisphere. But we must move fast", headded.
"This facility is a good idea, at the right time" said UN World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who estimated the likely duration of the current food crisis at "three or four years".
Budgets Committee Chairman Reimer Böge (EPP-ED, DE), regretted that the European Commission had complicated the procedure by adopting this proposal. He nonetheless indicated that the budgetary opinion on this "facility" would be adopted on 22 September. The Development Committee, for its part,will adopt its report on 7 October. In plenary session, a qualified majority will be needed to approve the proposal (scheduled for November).
Meeting Member States' undertakings
"In the Council, the Member States that favour the facility are also those that allocate the least money to development" (as a percentage of GDP), pointed out Glenys Kinnock (PES, UK). Public development assistance provided by Member States fell by €1.7 billion in 2007, according to the OECD.
Reimer Böge Budgets Committee Rapporteur for opinionCatherine Guy-Quint (PES, FR), also reminded Member States of the Millennium Goals funding commitments at the June 2008 Council.
A new flexibility for food crises?
Catherine Guy-Quint also advocated establishing a "European world food aid fund", to provide a flexibility "lacking in the European framework". "This flexibility would be endowed with EU budget surpluses", explained the MEP.
Extraordinary meeting of the EP Development Committee on the food facility