Subsidiarity is the fundamental EU idea that the Union should not take on tasks that
can be handled as or more efficiently by individual Member States. EU intervention
in decision-making or financing must thus be shown to give added value, compared
with national management. What precisely does the EU level add to agricultural policy?
And what is lost by its centralisation?
As long as the CAP was almost exclusively about market regulation and trade policy,
there was probably not much to discuss. But, as the policy has moved towards direct
payments to farmers, the added value in its “common” status becomes increasingly
unclear. What is the advantage of jointly deciding the size and structure of direct
payments in different parts of the EU and financing them from a common budget? If
different countries really have different preferences when it comes to prioritising agriculture
at the expense of other sectors or objectives, what common EU interest is
there in hindering subsidiarity? And why should environment measures, for nature
or countryside conservation purposes – in northern Sweden, the Greek Islands or the
Austrian Alps – be decided and financed jointly?
The issue of subsidiarity becomes even more relevant from an enlargement perspective.
The enlargement eastwards of ten or so countries will change the EU markedly.
Does enlargement changes the EU or its agriculture to the extent that a common policy
is neither possible nor relevant?