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What Europeans think of the EU's farm policy

A special Eurobarometer survey entitled "European Union citizens and agriculture from 1995 to 2003" gives an general idea of the evolution of people’'s perceptions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), its objectives, benefits and how they evaluate the changes that have occurred. Overall, the survey shows that EU citizens have a positive perception of the role of the CAP in meeting the EU citizens' demands. But it also highlights that more has to be done to the general public to explain the way it works.

According to the Eurobarometer, agriculture is the EU's policy area European citizens are most aware of. They consider a common agricultural policy as a necessity, along with environmental and social policies. Moreover, in the effort made towards building Europe a majority thinks that decisions in this area should be made at the European Union level. The report presents the main findings of a representative selection of questions asked in the Standard Eurobarometer, in the 1995-2003 period, about the CAP and the quality of food products.

  • EU citizens' awareness of the CAP: European citizens believe that it is appropriate for agricultural policy to be dealt with at EU level. Nevertheless the majority feel they are unaware of the functioning of the CAP (many - especially in Italy, Spain, Austria and Sweden - having little or no knowledge about it) suggesting that there is room for more communication on the way the CAP works;
  • Low levels of awareness about the CAP are more likely to be observed among women, people aged 15-24 years old and over 54 and, suggesting that the Commission should cover this age range with its communication strategy. The least educated also suffer from a lack of information;
  • People's evaluation of the way the CAP fulfils its role: people across the EU clearly believe that the primary role of the CAP should be to ensure that agricultural products are healthy and safe. Although a majority of EU citizens were in favour of the role played by the CAP, considerably fewer said that it fulfils its role well in these areas;
  • EU citizens' attitude towards CAP reform: Although less than 50% of EU citizens think that the European Union fulfils its objectives rather well in the area of agriculture, it is encouraging to note that the new directions the CAP has taken recently are widely supported across the EU Member States, especially in Ireland and Austria;
  • The price EU citizens are ready to pay for quality food products and their attitude towards quality food labels: quality of food products is an important issue for EU citizens, especially in northern countries. A quality food product has to have a good, natural taste, look appetising, and be produced under strict, hygienic conditions. EU citizens would apparently be ready to pay more to have higher quality meat and vegetables and would trust them more if the EU could guarantee the origin or the way a product is produced. A majority of EU citizens, especially in the southern countries, support the idea of a European quality label.

The readiness to pay more is perhaps the most surprising result. But the report shows that a majority of people (52 %) said they were willing to pay higher prices in return for quality (a 5-10 % increase seems to be acceptable). On the other hand, almost a third (31 %) was not prepared to pay more. 40 % of Finns and French people were not prepared to pay more for quality food.

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European Union citizens and agriculture from 1995 to 2003 (10/2004) [pdf]

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