Common Agricultural Policy in European Union

Term Paper, 2011

6 Pages, Grade: B


Europe is a major exporter and the world’s largest importer of food (mostly from developing countries). The European agriculture sector uses safe and environmentally- friendly production methods to produce the best quality of products. This sector not only provides the food but also guarantees the survival of the countryside as a place to live, work and visit (European Commission, 2011). All this goals are met thanks to coherent agricultural policy within the European Union.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the key policies of the European Union. CAP was created in the late 1950s and its objectives were included in the Treaty of Rome. It constituted: “the first successful attempt to create a single policy for an economic sector, implemented in a unified manner over the territory of a number of independent states, and which governed their relationships not only with one each other but also with the rest of the world”. For many years, the CAP was the only common European Community policy governed by EC institutions and so it was the heart of European integration. Even though its importance changed over the years it still remains the sole instance of a regionally integrated agricultural policy. The CAP no longer embodies the same degree of cross-national harmonization of agricultural policy among EC/EU member states that it once did (Skogstad & Verdun, 2009).

The objectives and goals of CAP has changed and developed throughout the last few decades, with the regards of the requirements of EU citizens as well as the expectations of taxpayers and consumers. The following factors took on a greater importance (European Commission, 2011):

- improving the quality of Europe's food,
- guaranteeing food safety,
- looking after the well-being of rural society,
- ensuring that the environment is protected for future generations,
- providing better animal health and welfare conditions,
- doing all this at minimal cost to the EU budget (which is funded mainly by taxpayers, i.e. ordinary citizens).

Overall CAP’s strategy is to ensure the competitiveness of the agriculture sector on world markets and to guarantee the very strict standards on environment, food safety and animal welfare. However, objectives will change again in the upcoming years in order to continue to (European Commission, 2011):

- be a living policy which reflects the needs and expectations of European society, promote a sustainable agriculture offering safe, quality products while protecting the environment and animal welfare, support the multifunctional role of farmers as suppliers of public goods to society, promote the growth and creation of jobs in rural areas, reinforce a competitive and innovative agricultural sector that can respond to the challenges of the world market, be managed by simple and transparent rules.

The graph below presents the share in agriculture sector of EU members. The countries with the biggest shares are France, Italy, Spain and Germany with 20.3%, 14.2%, 12.7% and 12.6% respectively. After each enlargement of the EU the structure and shares change, which is a challenge for maintaining the adequate policies. This could be spotted in 2004 when 10 new countries joined the EU (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and in 2007 with Romania and Bulgaria.

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Graph.1 Share in EU Agriculture (in %, 2005)

Source: European Commission (

Numerically, enlargement’s impact on EU agriculture is dramatic. A further 7 million farmers have been added to the EU’s existing farming population of 6 million of the former 15 Member States. The new 12 Member States add about 55 million hectares of agricultural land to the 130 million hectares in the old EU of 15, an increase of 40 %, although production in the EU of 27 will only expand by about 10 - 20 % for most products. This confirms that the large agricultural production potential of the new Member States is still far from being used to its full extent (European Commission, 2011).

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Graph.2 Agriculture's share of Gross Domestic Product (in %, 2005)

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Source: European Commission (

The graph above shows the importance of the agricultural sector as a share of Gross Domestic Product of 25 EU members (2005). The main observation from the graph may be, that in newly accessed countries (e.g. Poland, Hungary or Lithuania) the agriculture is still a very important part of their economies. That makes the CAP even more difficult to manage, since those countries (as mentioned above) have a lot of farmers and agricultural land, which become the part of the European agricultural system. Farmers in the new Member States have access to the single market in the EU and benefit from its relatively stable prices. They also get the direct payments (phased in gradually to reach the full EU level) and rural development measures (Grant, 2010).


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Common Agricultural Policy in European Union
Warsaw University  (Management Faculty)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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460 KB
European Union, Common Agricultural Policy, EU, agriculture, food, Europe, CAP, European Comission
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Tomasz Wilczak (Author), 2011, Common Agricultural Policy in European Union, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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