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International Conference on Foresight

"Exploring agricultural policy futures for small accession economies in an enlarged EU - Part II: The Role of Foresight in meeting these challenges"

2-4 October 2003

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The International conference "Exploring agricultural policy futures for small accession economies in an enlarged EU - Part I: Meeting the challenges for the development of Research, Technology and Innovation Policies for Agriculture" was held on 25th of October 2002 in Nicosia. The conference was organized in the frame of the eForesee project, a cooperation programme between Cyprus, Malta and Estonia, funded by the European Commission.

The scope of the Conference was to explore the opportunities and challenges for agriculture after joining the EU, utilizing foresight methodology through the selection of possible strategic visions. The Conference was addressed to policy makers within Europe responsible for the development and implementation of the National or the Common Agricultural Policy. Main aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy as well as social and economic dimensions of the compliance with the acquis in accession countries were reviewed. A round table discussion devoted to foresight methodology and foresight activities in member states and accession countries was also materlialized. Foresight was linked with agricultural policy issues in the light of enlargement and the creation of the European Research Area. The final outcome of this Conference was the introduction of alternative strategic visions for agriculture in the post accession period.

The idea was to use that conference to define the major challenges facing the agricultural sector, in the accession countries, and to see how a foresight approach could be applied to tackling problems whose solutions would require a widespread change of perspective - SOCIAL INNOVATION. Main problems recorded include the following:

  • Managing the impact of accession.
  • Meeting the challenge of rural development.
  • Consolidating and restructuring the former collectives.
  • Preparing for a sustainable future.
  • Managing the transition to agriculture as a 'knowledge industry'.
  • The abolition of farm subsidies.

The solution to the above problems could be partly achieved by research and imagination. The rest of the solution lies in implementing political process of building support among necessary constituencies - this is where Foresight can play a role in facilitating SOCIAL CHANGE!

"Exploring agricultural policy futures for small accession economies in an enlarged EU - Part II: The Role of Foresight in meeting these challenges"

2-4 October 2003

The first conference provides a basis for understanding the main problems. The second conference aims at:

  • Establishing a high level committee, including at least one member from each accession country.
  • Members should be involved in agriculture related policy development or policy implementation.
  • Communicating the message that 'solutions exist to the problems we face'. These solutions will be described based on experiences in Europe and elsewhere.
  • Exploring how tools such as foresight can be used to build consensus on solving problems that require widespread 'buy-in' by stakeholder constituencies, if progress is to be achieved.

The results of the Cyprus Pilots on Foresight, as well as the experiences in national Foresight exercises in countries such as Greece and the Netherlands will provide a basis for productive discussions on this issue.

Issues to be examined during the Second Conference:

  1. The international environment:
    • The possible scenario for further liberalization to the agricultural trade in the new WTO round.
    • The perception that the WTO serves as a forum for 'world governance'.
    • What is more important in determining the future of agricultural policies? The will of the people or that of the national governments?
    • Should the EU and accession states keep together in the WTO negotiation process?

  2. CAP interim reform: The Common Agricultural Policy is currently under interim reform. Concepts like the quality of products, animal welfare, environment friendly agriculture, information and communication technologies (ICT), and dissemination of knowledge will play a key role in the future Common Agricultural Policy.
    Pressures for CAP reform: The Common Agricultural policy faces various challenges, which impose pressure for a new reform. The most important developments that may affect and direct the reform are:
    • The Doha development Agenda - It is very likely that the current round will oblige the EU to decrease the use of export refunds and restrict the use of classical support schemes.
    • EU enlargement - How it will affect the Common Agricultural Policy?
    • The CAP's internal inconsistencies:
      • The 'unfair' distribution of direct payments based on historical yields.
      • The distributional burden of the CAP on Member states.
      • The need to develop the CAP's second pillar and reduce its adverse environmental impact.

  3. Agriculture in Accession states: As a response to the criticism for reduced direct payment to accession states the EU intends to support Restructuring and modernization of the agricultural sector through:
    • Semi-subsistence measures.
    • Support for extension services.
    • The amendments and extensions of certain existing measures.
    • The use of differentiated appropriations and.
    • A maximum EU co-financing of 75% instead of 70% in the current member states.

    The accession states obviously should follow production methods compatible with the Acquis Communautaire. Accession to the EU and the last developments in World Trade Organization call for a more competitive agricultural sector. For a competitive agricultural sector the Agricultural policy should be reoriented. Innovation, Global Knowledge Economy, Information and Communication Technology, will play a key role in the new era. Research, Science and Technology, are interlinked and should be employed to improve productivity and competition. Emphasis should be given to agricultural practices publicly accepted like:

    • Environment friendly agriculture.
    • Organic farming, remains an alternative production process, which could secure increased farm income.
    • Differentiation of production through production of novel products.
    • Products with increased value added, like processed food, instead of raw products.
    • Products of Geographical Indication and/or Names of Origin which could be unique.

  4. Foresight methodology to meet policy challenges: Foresight has become a dynamic policy tool used worldwide and especially in the European Union in policy planning. It uses the Bottom-up approach, instead of the top-down approach used widely. In this respect, there is a good chance for every single citizen to participate in a free dialogue for the creation of a given policy. Due to its flexibility foresight could be applied in different ways to fit special needs of every society and even every single sector of the economy. Furthermore, Foresight is based on a Knowledge background, a concept that becomes very popular in modern policy planning. It links Research, Science and Technology, providing a scientific approach to policy issues. Foresight attracts special interest in the 6th Framework Programme, in an effort to improve democracy and citizens' participation in governance.

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