Assignment: Common Agricultural Policy
The European Parliament (EP) is a deliberative body that shares co-decision legislative powers with the Council of Ministers but remains the junior partner. Since 1979, its members have been elected by direct universal suffrage. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) interprets and applies EU treaties and adjudicates disputes between member-states and the EU bodies.
The 1993 Treaty on the European Union (TEU) created three pillars: the European Community (EC), the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). Decisions on the economy (Pillar One) are made by supranational method (qualified majority voting). Decisions on foreign and security policy (Pillar Two) and justice and home affairs (Pillar Three) are made by the intergovernmental method (unanimity); however, some policy matters—for example, the internal open-border system, immigration, and asylum—formerly under Pillar Three (intergovernmental) have been shifted to Pillar One (supranational).
EU member-states agree to place the acquis communautaire—the total body of EU community law—over national law. The acquis comprises a billion words and have been translated into twenty-two official EU languages.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been an EU fixture since the inception of the original common market in 1958. The CAP sets and collects tariffs on agricultural products coming into the EU and provides subsidies to EU farmers. In the past, agricultural expenditures (mainly subsidies) have accounted for nearly 50% of the EU budget. The CAP’s share was projected to drop below one-third in 2013, but agriculture’s share remained closer to 40% as France has resisted any reductions in subsidies to French farmers. Brussels also faces growing pressure from new member-states to reallocate EU resources to regional development programs and projects (called “structural” and “cohesion” funds) aimed at helping lagging areas—many in Central and Eastern Europe—catch up.
By far the gravest challenge to the EU in recent years, however, has been the sovereign debt crisis (aka, the “euro crisis”) triggered by Greece’s threat to default—to declare bankruptcy and leave creditors out in the cold (see “Landmarks in History: The Euro Crisis”). The danger of a panic in capital markets on the heels of the 2008 global financial crisis posed a policy dilemma for the EU Council: whether to evict Greece from the EU (the so-called Grexit option) or put together a financial rescue package (the bailout option). The problem with bailing out Greece was that Spain, Portugal, and Ireland were also sinking into insolvency. Eventually, the richer EU member-states agreed to bailouts for all four countries. But the bailouts came with strings attached—the givers (mainly Germany) made the recipients agree to tough and unpopular austerity programs. Nobody can say how this story will end; let’s take a look at how it began.
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