Not fit for purpose – NGOs present Fitness Check of the Common Agricultural Policy

Fotografias promocionais Rota Vicentina © João Mariano -

The results of a new study show that the current CAP, accounting for almost 40% of the EU budget (almost 60 billion EUR per year), is not fit for purpose. The findings from the evidence-based Fitness Check assessment of the CAP will be presented at a workshop [1] in Brussels today.  The independent study, for which the authors assessed 450 peer reviewed scientific papers, titled [2] Is the CAP fit for purpose? was commissioned by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife Europe & Central Asia with the support of research institutes and political groups [3] and carried out by a respected team of experts in agro-economy, ecology and sociology following the European Commission’s own ‘better regulation’ methodology.

The key results from the study show that:

– From a socio-economic and environmental perspective the CAP delivers only partially or negatively on the 5 key fitness check questions: efficiency, effectiveness, coherence, EU added value and relevance.

– Direct Payments as income support receive the largest budget allocation without sufficient justification or clear links to CAP objectives.

– The environmental engagement of the CAP is insufficient to halt environmental degradation, nor reduce the dramatic decline of biodiversity, provides inadequate ecosystem services in the EU, and fails completely to satisfactorily address the challenges of climate change.

– The CAP does not adequately address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the current structure will not deliver for the SDGs in the future.

The European Commission itself has failed to follow its own better regulation rules and has not undertaken a Fitness Check of the CAP despite several calls from civil society, Members of the European Parliament and elements of the business community to do so (for example the participants of the Living Land [4] campaign). A Fitness Check of the CAP has also been formally requested by the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) platform, a key European Commission advisory group made up of representatives from business, social partners and civil society.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Guy Pe’er, iDiv research centre, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and Leipzig University said:

“With 60 years under our belts, an overwhelming richness of knowledge and experience has accumulated, especially on how production and environmental protection can be combined. But under current CAP design, this cannot be achieved. Our assessment shows that the CAP contains some useful instruments, but it suffers from an inflation in objectives and instruments, some of which conflict with each other. It is therefore not surprising that the outcomes are mixed at best. Our results for efficiency, internal coherence and relevance were quite alarming, and when examined from a sustainability perspective and the SDGs, all in all, our assessment shows that the CAP cannot deliver. A coherent set of objectives, structured around sustainability generally – social, economic, and environmental – may prove more effective and efficient, and likely will bring also higher acceptance both by farmers and the broader public.”

Dr. Sebastian Lakner, Research Associate at the Chair for Agricultural Policy Department for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Goettingen, author of the study, said:

The CAP of 2017 is not fit for purpose. The largest part of the CAP are the direct payments. The EU Commission has failed to justify this huge spend of taxpayers’ money with a reasonable argument. And consequently, reliable indicators and statistics to evaluate this policy are still missing. The 2017 direct payments still produce misallocations and inconsistencies. And Greening is a bureaucratic failure with disappointing impact. The EU Commission has done a fairly good job in reforming the most distorting market policies in the last 25 years. Now it’s time to face the new challenges.  From my perspective we must 1) help with the transformation to a more sustainable way of farming, 2) stop the loss of biodiversity and 3) cope with the huge challenge of climate change. To achieve progress on these challenges, the EU Commission has to introduce an ambitious reform proposal. This all requires ambitious CAP reform!”

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Policy Manager for Agriculture & Bioenergy, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“The upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be based on a proper assessment of the impact of subsidies. Without such an evidence-based approach it will be impossible for the Commission to justify continuing to pour such huge amounts of EU taxpayers’ money into the CAP. We hope the Commission takes this research into account in its own assessment of the policy and concludes that to support farmers’ shift to sustainable farming it is essential to move away from funding harmful activities through perverse payments.”

Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia said:

“Next week the European Commission is expected to publish its Communication on the future of the CAP. We hope that this study will serve as a wake-up call for the Commission – the CAP is outdated and not fit for the 21st century. It has to be radically reformed into a new European Food and Land-Use Policy that can meet today’s challenges and deliver on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” 


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Guy Pe’er, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Leipzig University
+49 341 97 33 154 (iDiv Media & Communications office)

Dr. Sebastian Lakner, Research Associate at the Chair for Agricultural Policy
Department for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Goettingen
+49 551 39 13 788

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Policy Manager for Agriculture & Bioenergy
European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
+32 487 24 42 70

Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer
BirdLife Europe & Central Asia
+ 32 2 238 50 91

Trees Robijns, Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer
NABU (BirdLife Germany)
+49 (0)173 47 26 122

Notes to editors:
[1] Workshop: CAP – Fit for the Future of Farming? 21 November 2017, Museum of Natural Sciences, Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels

[2] Read the full study: Is the CAP fit for the future of farming?

Full study can be cited as: G. Pe’er, S. Lakner, R. Müller, G. Passoni, V. Bontzorlos, D. Clough, F. Moreira, C. Azam, J. Berger, P. Bezak, A. Bonn, B. Hansjürgens, L. Hartmann, J. Kleemann, A. Lomba,  A. Sahrbacher,  S. Schindler, C. Schleyer,  J. Schmidt, S. Schüler, C. Sirami, M. von Meyer-Höfer, and  Y. Zinngrebe (2017). Is the CAP Fit for purpose? An evidence based fitness-check assessment. Leipzig, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig.

Executive Summary

As of October 2017, over 800 publications were listed and evaluated as potentially relevant for the CAP’s assessment. Over 450 of these were used to analyse the CAP and produce the report, and 306 were also incorporated into an in-depth database. In order to produce this report the authors harvest information from the most relevant publications and the in-depth database. These publications cover 26 Member States, as well as impacts of the CAP in countries beyond the EU. Most publications addressed the criteria ‘effectiveness’ followed by ‘efficiency’, whereas ‘internal coherence’ was least addressed (Fig. 2). The database used for the study is published and available online at

[3] The study Is the CAP fit for the future of farming? is commissioned by Stichting BirdLife Europe and the European Environmental Bureau and further supported and funded by Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, the University of Goettingen, The Greens/The European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament.

[4] The Commission’s public consultation on the Common Agricultural Policy ended on 2 May and over 250,000 people and 600 organisations and businesses took part via the Living Land campaign, calling for a radical overhaul of EU farm policy to make it fair, environmentally sustainable, healthy and globally responsible.

Not fit for purpose – NGOs present Fitness Check of the Common Agricultural Policy
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