Blaming without actions for the poor

 Struggles about the European Program of Food Aid for the Most Deprived Persons (the so-called EU Food Aid Scheme) are still ‘present-continous’. Both member states including the Minority-block and EU institutions are eager to shifting the responsibility to each other, at the expense of 18 million recipients. This issue illustrates another example of EU’s buck-passing. – By Taeyoung Kim

Six member states consisting the minority-block; Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom are still stick to their position. They insist this scheme should be dealt in member states’ level as a welfare program. While other member states and EU are forcing this minority-block to consider the devastating situation. “We are trying to force the Commission and the Council to ‘act’. We hope that even one country will change its mind.” Paolo De Castro, the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament, pointed out.

The estimated deadline for resolving this issue will be around Christmas. However, the prospect is still in doubt. “Situation is very pessimistic, even though both the Commission and the Parliament urge the Council to take action.”, an EU official pointed out. If the plan is not accepted by Christmas, then the budget for this scheme will meet drastic cut and the future of 18 million EU people’s lives will be questioning.

Giving food for the poor; 24 years of history

The EU Food Aid Scheme has started since 1987, as a method of solving agricultural surplus within the region. It devoted to fight against poverty and has promoted social inclusion. This scheme has provided food coming from surplus stocks of farm produce, called ‘intervention stocks’, to the needy people in Europe. In September 2010, the European Commission suggested a proposal to member states to support the amount of €500 million of aid to proceed this scheme in the year 2012 and 2013.

Since the number of surplus stocks has been decreasing, the EU member states had to meet the demand by replacing agricultural inventories to food products in the market. In April 2011, the European Court of Justice adjudicated that purchasing agricultural products in the open market is against the EU’s free-market policy. As a result, the funding was reduced to €113.5 million. Even though the budget of €500 million is already prepared for 2012, there is no preparation for following years starting from 2013.

With the EU Food Aid Scheme, 440,000 tons of EU agricultural products are distributed in 2009. Throughout the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and 30,000 charitable organizations are receiving this scheme and providing food around 18 millions European citizens in twenty EU member states, in 2011. According to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Commission, 43 million people in twenty-seven member states of the EU are still at risk of food poverty; defined as the percentage of people who cannot afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day. Unfortunately, this figure has been increasing due to the current financial crisis striking all Europe.

According to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Commission, 43 million people in twenty-seven member states of the EU are still at risk of food poverty; defined as the percentage of people who cannot afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day. Unfortunately, this figure has been increasing due to the current financial crisis striking all Europe.

A debate about the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)'s reform, on 7 Nov 2011. EU Food Aid Scheme is an issue of the reform.

What is EU and what is not?

The current structure of the European Union has been established in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty, which was signed by member states of the European Community (EC) on 7 february 1992. Under Maastricht Treaty, the EC transformed into the European Union with authorizing broad power – from economy to foreign affairs and justice – to itself. Since then, the EU has strengthen its function throughout its numerous organizations with carrying legal binding force to its member states.

However, after 18 years of its history, roles of EU itself are still questioning; especially defining its role sharing between the EU’s roles and member states’ roles. “We have already distinguished what should be done in member states’ level, and what should be done in the European Union clearly on treaties and legislations. The point is that member states should follow on these facts.” A Czech official pointed out, but he also admitted it is not an easy problem. EU Food Aid Scheme is an issue which shows this difficulty clearly.

Countries which are blocking the EU Food Aid Scheme insist this scheme should be dealt in member states’ level, not in EU level. They regard that giving food to the poor is a social affairs and it should be a duty of each member state. “Recovering poverty is not the agenda of the EU; basically country itself.” Dan Jørgensen, a  Danish member of the European Parliament, argued explicitly. “There are various definitions of the word ‘Poor’. Each member states has different situation in dealing the Poor. Regarding to this fact, social policies in member states are so decentralised, and there is no common standards. We should consider that diverse situations.” A Czech official mentioned.

On the other hand, some, including EU itself, are arguing all agendas are dealt in EU and the EU Food Aid Scheme is also the share should be accomplished by the EU. “Some countries (the minority-block) are thinking just themselves. They are neglecting the EU’s appropriateness; the communitarian society. We should consider if the plan takes the ground, then it will be a burden not only to poor countries but also rich countries like Italy and Spain; because they have to support its own poor people without helping from the EU. This is not a problem of a single nation which can be dealt in the national level.” Paolo De Castro, the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament, refuted.

“It is our out of control. It is the Council should decide. The Commission is following the decision of Council. That is how this democratic system works.” Dacian Cioloş, the Commissioner of the Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, said.

Both Bulgarian (third from the left) and Czech (fourth from the left) flags are hanged at the outside of the European Parliament Complex, Brussels.

Irresponsible democracy or indifferent bureaucracy?

Another thing makes this issue complex is who is responsible for this scheme in EU. There is no consensus was made that where this issue should be dealt. “It is our out of control. It is the Council should decide. The Commission is following the decision of Council. That is how this democratic system works.” Dacian Cioloş, the Commissioner of the Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, said. “We have already passed resolutions about supporting the Food Aid twice, but the European Council is not budge an inch.” Castro added.

As things go, it seems that both the European Committee and the European Parliament are waiting for the European Council to solve this urgent issue. However, the revised plan – transferring the funding of food support to ‘smart and inclusive growth’ and reducing the budget from €500 million to €360 million – was denied from the minority-block during the late council in october, neither progress nor further negotiations have been made since then.

In order to solving this issue, lots of questions should be answered. However, among lots of questionable issues, one thing seems unquestionable; 18 million European residents relying on this controversial scheme. “we should consider that 18 million peoples who are totally depending on the aid. However, if the plan is denied and the duty will be replaced to the state, then poor people living in poor countries will be driven on the edge of a precipice.” Castro mentioned as finishing the short-interview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *