Agriculture Ministers EU debate the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

What are the origins of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and what challenges will it face in the future? Our series, “Looking back, looking ahead”, answers these questions on the occasion of this week’s Informal Meeting of the EU Agriculture Ministers in Koblenz.

It is the oldest common policy in the EU: The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will be discussed in Koblenz this week as part of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, has evolved significantly since it was launched in 1962. Back then, it came into effect against the backdrop of supply shortages, volatile food prices and the Cold War.

The beginnings of the CAP
As set out in the Treaties of Rome in 1957, the CAP focused on boosting agricultural production in order to guarantee food supplies at affordable prices in a Europe still impacted by war. Further goals were to secure farmers an adequate income and to stabilize markets.

Multiple instruments were created for this in the 1960s. The six founding states of the European Economic Community (Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) eliminated internal tariffs on the most important agricultural products. They levied common tariffs on imports while exports to the rest of the world were subsidized, which kept them competitive. The founding states also introduced a system of “guaranteed prices, which meant that farmers were assured of reliable revenues in any situation and would not be exposed to the global market’s strong price fluctuations. The goal: an assured income for farmers and their families.