Preservation and management of natural resources
The year 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the common agricultural policy, a cornerstone of European integration that has provided European citizens with 5 decades of secure food supply and a living countryside.
Thanks to a German–French project within the framework of the EU LIFE + programme, the allis shad fish made a return to the Rhine some 60 years after its disappearance.
The European Fisheries Fund provides funding to the fishing industry and coastal communities to help them adapt to changing conditions in the sector as well as to become economically resilient and ecologically sustainable.
EU funding enabled the transformation of a damaged farm building in the city of Międzychód (Poland) into an environmental education centre attracting more than 8 000 visitors every year.
The EU’s agriculture, rural development, fisheries and environment are financed under this heading. Arable lands and forests cover the vast majority of our continent. Their smart and sustainable use plays a key role in determining the health of rural economies as well as the rural landscape. Agriculture still has a valuable contribution to make to their sustainable economic management. Farmers perform many different functions, ranging from producing food and non-food agricultural products to countryside management, nature conservation and tourism. Farming can thus be described as having multiple functions.
The CAP is a policy of strategic importance to farm income, agricultural markets, the environment and territorial balance. The aim is to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for EU agriculture and rural areas in line with the Europe 2020 strategy.
The CAP is a genuinely European policy, as instead of operating tens of national agricultural policies, Member States pool resources to operate a single European policy with a single European budget. Such a common policy allows for a more effective response to transnational goals and cross-border challenges, such as a level playing field in the single market and a better position in trade negotiations. This naturally means that the CAP accounts for a significant proportion of the EU budget.
The first pillar of the CAP is composed of market-related expenditure and direct payments to farmers. Data shows that direct aid stabilises farm incomes and thus contributes to the economic viability of farms. Direct payments on average accounted for almost half of family farm income in 2012. Under the direct aid schemes, support is granted to more than 7 million European farmers. The subsequent CAP reforms since 1992 have enhanced the market orientation of EU agriculture and reduced the expenditure on export refund and public intervention to below EUR 200 million in 2012 (less than 0.5 % of the CAP).
A number of evaluations were carried out in 2012 on different elements of the CAP. In particular, the impacts of CAP measures on markets, farm income, production structures, competitiveness, the environment and rural development were examined.
The evaluation of the wine sector covering the period 2001–11 confirmed the Commission’s initial conclusions that the 2008 wine reform has been implemented successfully and that there are no longer structural surpluses in the wine sector.
In addition, the evaluation of the cereals sector confirmed the findings of evaluations of CAP first-pillar measures carried out during 2007–11. The results indicate that while aid is needed to support producers’ income, the switch to decoupling limits distorting effects. The production decisions of farmers and processors are more determined by market signals.
A total of EUR 43 890 million was spent on market-related expenditure and direct aid in 2012.
Rural development, the second pillar of the CAP, is designed to help rural areas respond to the economic, social and environmental issues of the 21st century. Nearly 60 % of the population of the EU Member States lives in rural areas, which cover 90 % of the territory. Operational programmes address the specific problems and needs in the different regions and Member States.
The programme cover three groups of themes or ‘axes’.
- Axis 1: competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, focusing on knowledge transfer, modernisation, innovation and the quality of the food chain.
- Axis 2: biodiversity, the preservation and development of high-nature-value farming and forestry systems and traditional agricultural landscapes, water and climate change.
- Axis 3: quality of life in rural areas and diversification.
- Axis 4: leader, area-based local developments.
To help ensure a balanced approach to policy, Member States and regions are obliged to spread their rural development funding across these four groups. A further requirement is that some of the funding must support projects developed by local action groups under the so-called ‘leader’ approach. This is to encourage highly individual projects designed and executed by local partnerships to address specific local problems.
Developments in 2012 1
Under axis 1, some of the main outcomes by the end of 2011 are: 219 650 modernisation projects on farms supported by the EAFRD (37 % of the overall targets); 1.35 million participants that have successfully completed a training activity related to agriculture and/or forestry (49 %); 224 000 farms participating in quality schemes under rural development programmes (80 %); and 15 770 enterprises supported for added value projects (45 %).
Under axis 2, among the areas under successful land management contributing to avoidance of marginalisation, biodiversity, water quality, mitigating climate change and soil quality, the agri-environmental supports count for 41.7 million hectares (87 %), including organic farming; the less-favoured-area supports count for 52.8 million hectares (96 %); and Natura 2000 supports count for 900 000 ha (67 %).
Under axes 3 and 4, some of the main outcomes by the end of 2011 are: 62 million inhabitants in rural areas benefiting from improved services supported by the EAFRD (70 %); 10 500 new tourist actions supported (30 %); 19 100 micro-enterprises supported/created; and 27 700 villages where renewal actions took place.
A total of EUR 13 174 million was spent on rural development in 2012.
Nanotechnology is now used in the production of high quality pottery in Crete (Greece). A company which has operated in the field since 2006 has invested in innovative equipment covering the manufacturing and baking stages and the stage of immersion of pottery in a submersible platform for water proofing. In this last stage, nanotechnology is used, giving rise to high-quality waterproof pottery. The new equipment has increased exponentially the productive capacity, simplified production processes and achieved time savings in the construction of pottery. This local business has started to promote its handmade, traditional pottery on the Internet
(http://www.minoanpottery.gr), so these traditional, handmade masterpieces are available to meet the growing demand.
EU contribution: EUR 46 545
LIFE + contributes to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation. At least 78 % of appropriations are used for action grants, of which at least 50 % are for projects supporting the conservation of nature and biodiversity. The projects supported are co-financing pilots or demonstration projects with European added value. The LIFE + programme 2007–13 consists of three components: LIFE + nature and biodiversity; LIFE + environment policy and governance; and LIFE + information and communication. The programme also funds the operating costs of European NGOs which contribute to the development and implementation of Union environmental policy; legislation and support for the Commission’s role in initiating environment policy development and implementation through studies, evaluations, seminars and workshops with experts and stakeholders’ networks; and publication and dissemination activities, including events, exhibitions and awareness-raising measures.
Of all the nature and biodiversity projects financed under LIFE +, almost 50 % included actions for the restoration/improvement of Natura 2000 sites (the EU-wide network of nature protection areas), while more than 40 % included conservation actions. Removal of invasive alien species is included in almost 20 % of the projects, while species reintroduction is included in more than 10 % of the projects. Although the process of designation of Natura 2000 sites is close to completion, almost 10 % of the ongoing projects still include actions for the creation of new sites.
As regards the LIFE + environment component, 2012 showed a significant increase in the number of high-quality projects in the areas of waste management and product policy: life cycles and the promotion of recycling.
A total of EUR 242 million was spent on LIFE + in 2012.
The Gaia project tackles the issues of climate change (both mitigation and adaptation) and air pollution, by developing a public–private partnership model for urban forestation through the adoption of the green areas inner-city agreement (GAIA), covering management, monitoring and mapping. The coordinating beneficiary is a local authority, the commune of Bologna.
EU contribution: EUR 0.6 million
The aim of the CFP is to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in a healthy marine environment which can support an economically viable industry providing employment and opportunities for coastal communities. To achieve this, the EU provides financial support to the fishing sector, including aquaculture and the sustainable development of fisheries areas. The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) is worth EUR 4.3 billion for the period 2007–13. It is divided between:
- measures to adapt the EU fishing fleet;
- aquaculture, inland fishing, processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products;
- measures of common interest;
- sustainable development of fisheries areas; and
- technical assistance.
Each Member State draws up an operational programme setting out its choice of priorities and the relevant targets.
The Commission and the Member States strive to maintain or restore depleted stocks to fishing levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield (MSY) on an urgent basis, and not later than 2015. The statistics on stock status confirm the trend of the last 3 years: the adequacy of scientific advice and the state of fisheries resources in EU waters are improving.
The latest available data show that 52 % of the known stocks in the north-east Atlantic and adjacent waters are exploited at or below MSY rate. Between 2003 and 2012, only 35 % of the stocks were in safe biological condition, which suggests that the health of fisheries resources in this area has been improving. In the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea the availability of scientific advice has improved, revealing that 52 out of the 65 (or 80 %) stocks for which MSY is known are overfished.
While these positive developments bring us closer to the resource efficiency envisaged by the Europe 2020 strategy, further progress towards MSY for all stocks subject to total allowable catches by 2015 is still needed.
The EFF plays a vital role in the implementation of the CFP by supporting the fishing industry and fishing-dependent coastal communities. The EFF supports the sustainable development of fisheries areas through fisheries local action groups (FLAGs). Such groups were in place in 21 Member States at the end of 2012. The EFF also supports aquaculture, although production in this area has been stagnating in the EU. The main barriers to growth are limited access to space and licencing, industry fragmentation, limited access to seed capital or loans for innovation in a risk-adverse context, pressure from imports, time-consuming administrative procedures and red tape. Although it represents a relatively small part of the EU economy, aquaculture has the potential to boost growth and jobs in coastal and inland areas in the EU. A total of EUR 481 million was spent on the EFF in 2012.
In Uusikaupunki (Finland), the EFF co-finances an aquaculture and greenhouse unit where a company develops technologies for combining energy and food production. This takes place in a closed system where waste, waste energy, nutrients and CO2 are used and recycled back to energy and food production: the CO2 emissions from the energy production unit are utilised to enhance growth in the greenhouse and the heat generated by the electricity production is captured to heat the water in the aquaculture unit. The nutrient-rich water from the aquaculture unit in turn is used as a fertiliser in the greenhouse. Finally, the solid waste from the greenhouse and the aquaculture unit is used as raw material in the biogas unit.
EU contribution: EUR 0.6 million
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1 Latest monitoring data available is by the end of 2011.