Courtesy of his speech to the Green Week event in Berlin, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos took the opportunity of looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that may well impact on European agriculture during the period ahead.

He said: “This year will be a year of important decisions for the future of the European Union. I am thinking here in particular of the European Parliament elections and the discussions that will take place during the campaign. The EU is in a perpetual state of construction and needs clear perspectives for the future.

“The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), especially through the reform which we recently decided, offers a European perspective to a sector which has a very strong impact on our daily lives in the form of agriculture and food.

“Together with the 28 member states and the European Parliament, we have reformed the CAP. This reform reflects choices already made, to encourage farmers to produce what consumers want and not what public authorities decide.

“At the same time, we wanted to encourage farmers to take into account not only our choices as consumers – healthy, safe, quality and affordable products – but also our choices as citizens, with concerns for the environment and our future.”

Ciolos continued: “Following the turn of the century, the EU set itself far-reaching objectives: traceability of food products, animal welfare, restrictions on certain substances such as hormones in livestock production.

“Today, with greening, which fosters sustainable agricultural practices at EU level, we are going one step further to meet the challenges of regenerating our natural resources, which are both an economic benefit and a public good.

“These two elements, taking account of consumer expectations and our capacity to regenerate natural productive resources in a sustainable way, are two interlinked features of the competitiveness of modern farming.

“In order to modernise our agriculture, taking into account the economic and sustainability challenges, we need to give greater emphasis to 2 factors: – innovation and youth.

“But farmers must be able to make a comfortable living from their work and society must be made more aware of the value of their dedication and commitment.”

The Commissioner concluded: “On the internal market we must ensure that the level of food safety and quality demanded from our farmers is better known. Consumers must be well-informed when they make their choices.

“At international level, equally, the stakes are high for our agri-food sector, centred in particular exports of high added-value, quality, processed products.

“Our trade policy must be based on the obvious assets of our agri-food products. It should not rely on public policy tools to support exports, which risk affecting the capacity of others to develop their own agriculture, especially in less developed countries.

“Since January 1st, EU legislation is also very clear: export refunds have ceased to exist as a means of systematically supporting a sector. Moreover, I would like to tell you this evening, in the framework of preferential partnership agreements with African countries: I am prepared to go one step further. I am ready to propose to stop, once and for all, the use of export refunds to those developing country destinations – even in times of crisis when this instrument can still be used. This commitment will bring our agricultural policy fully into line with EU development policy.”