You are here

Concern urges consensus on European funds

Concern Worldwide is urging EU member states to back the proposal to divert one billion euros in unused farm subsidies to help tackle the global food price crisis.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels, Concern CEO Tom Arnold warned that the fund is not a quick fix. Serious change in agricultural policy in developing countries – backed by increased aid flows from developed countries – is the key to achieving food security in the long run.

“All the aid in the world won’t make a difference if that doesn’t happen,” said Mr Arnold. He is in Brussels today for an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s Development Committee on the proposal to re-allocate one billion euros in unspent EU farm subsidies.

Helping African farmers

Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell has written a report on the plan announced in July by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso. The plan is aimed at helping African farmers gain access to the inputs such as seeds and fertilisers that they need to increase their productivity in the year ahead.

Top of the international agenda

“The events of the past year have put the issue of food security at the top of the international agenda for the first time since the 1970s,” noted Mr Arnold. “The recent food price rises have pushed another 100 million people into hunger. This is over and above the 850 million of the world’s poorest people who already grapple with hunger on a daily basis.

“The international response to this has been disappointing. The EU’s billion euro initiative to help poor countries increase their food production is, therefore, welcome. But the institutions – the Parliament, Commission and Council – need to take quick decisions so that the money is made available in good time to enable farmers to buy the inputs they need.”

However, Tom Arnold stressed that the one billion euro fund needs to form part of a wider and longer-term framework of policy change. He’s calling for a serious re-investment in agriculture and, in particular, in the food security of the most vulnerable populations of the world.

Need for real commitment

Mr Arnold continued: “The EU must follow this short-term investment by demonstrating a real commitment to supporting agriculture as a key part of development strategy. It can do that by supporting the governments of developing countries that are willing to invest in the infrastructure – such as markets, roads – required to increase productivity of small farmers. It should also support farmers and farm organisations in the decisions which affect their day-to-day lives.”

Mr Arnold was addressing a public hearing on the “Common Agricultural Policy and Food Security” on which Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness has been asked to compile a report. He spoke on the topic of “European cooperation with Third Countries, the role of NGOs and the global trade system”.