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Euro-glossary Monday, 30 April, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Common Agricultural Policy
Farmers protest at Saintes, southwestern France Thursday, March 5, 1999
French farmers protest against the reform of the CAP
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was the biggest policy concern of the European Community in its early days, and is still one of the major challenges facing the EU.

Although spending on CAP has been reduced in recent years, it still consumes almost half the EU budget.

The policy was set up against a backdrop of food shortages and rations following World War II, and had five founding aims:

  • Increased productivity
  • A fair standard of living for farmers
  • Stable markets
  • Regular food supplies
  • Reasonable prices for consumers

And it was based on three principles:

  • A single market in farm products with common prices and free movement of agricultural goods within the community
  • Preference for community members
  • Shared costs

But by the early 1980s intervention buying under the CAP had led to Europe's infamous wine lakes and butter mountains.

The CAP embodied people's worst impressions of the European community and acquired an image of being a corrupt and bloated bureaucracy.

It also stirred up strong passions amongst farmers making every change and renegotiation of the policy a difficult and emotive issue.

The forthcoming accession of countries like Poland, with its expanse of poor rural areas, has raised concerns about how to adapt the CAP to the conditions of an enlarged Europe.

See also:

04 Dec 00 | Nice summit glossary
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