Original publication: May 2016
Authors:
CCRI, University of Gloucestershire, UK: Janet Dwyer, Katarina Kubinakova, Nick Lewis, John Powell and Mauro Vigani
Thünen Institute, Germany: Barbara Fährmann Alexander Gocht, Regina Grajewski
Red2Red consultores, Spain: Maria Coto Sauras, Paloma Nieto Cachinero
CREA, Italy: Francesco Mantino
INRA-CESAER Dijon, France: Marielle Berriet-Solliec, Hai-vu Pham
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2quIhUK
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This study was commissioned by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament (AGRI Committee) and undertaken by a team led by CCRI, University of Gloucestershire, UK, with partners in Germany, Italy, Spain and France. Its aim has been to analyse the choices made by Member States and regions in planning their new Rural Development Programmes 2014-2020, under Pillar 2 of the CAP.

 

The analysis was made using published information on the approved Rural Development Programmes and Partnership Agreements of all EU28 Member States for 2014-2020, supplemented with qualitative information gathered from experts in the Member States, including officials, independent experts and stakeholder organisations.

It has analysed planned expenditures on rural development funded from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), as matched by national or regional cofinancing and including additional national financing (‘top ups’). A comparison has been made with funding allocation patterns in the previous programme period (2007-2013), and with choices between funds as revealed in the Partnership Agreements and the CAP Pillar 1 – Pillar 2 fund-switching decisions also made by each Member State.

The new EAFRD Regulation represents an evolution in approach from the framework which applied in the previous programming period, with some simplifications in the detailed structure of measures but also some increased complexity due to a larger number of strategic objectives, each with specific ‘focus areas’ and greater flexibility in the choice of measures that can be used to achieve these. The EU has moved towards a more strategic and integrated approach, focused on sustainable development. There is more emphasis in the current period upon using funding to meet identified needs in a co-ordinated way alongside other EU funding, and in justifying and tracking progress in respect of RDP indicators and targets.

The EU resources initially allocated to the Member States for rural development were less than in 2007-2013 but because of the provisions for additional national financing, variable cofinancing rates and the possibility of fund-switching between CAP pillars, the end result is a small increase in nominal terms compared to the total allocation in the previous programming period. However, there are significant ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ among individual Member States and regions in respect of how their RDP budgets differ from the old to the new period, and also in their changed relationship with Pillar 1 funding allocations, and with the other EU Structural Funds. It is the interplay of these factors which shapes many of the choices made.

The new elements under 2014-2020 programmes include a much broader approach to cooperation, the incorporation of risk management within RDPs from its former position within CAP Pillar 1, and the European Innovation Partnership. Some other measures have been slightly modified or re-defined, and the early retirement measure has been removed along with those measures previously specific to new member countries only.

The general pattern of Member States’ allocation to priorities in the 2014-2020 period shows a predominance of spending on environmental measures and on physical investments for competitiveness. Less funding is devoted to broader rural development, on average. Among the focus areas, competitiveness of farms is strongly favoured, as are measures for environmental protection and land management.

The most popular measures in 2014-2020 are areas facing natural constraints (ANCs), agrienvironment-climate measures (AECMs) and physical investments. Their relative importance varies by Member State and some key geographical axes of variation in priorities can be seen, with north-western MS prioritising AECMs, geographically peripheral countries (most remote from central markets) prioritising ANCs, and eastern and some southern MS prioritising physical investments. A link is suggested between those MS which spend significantly on area-based measures (ANCs and AECMs) and their Pillar 1 experience (reduced Pillar 1 spending leading to the increased use of Pillar 2 area-based measures as a compensating tactic).

Comparing the planned spend for 2014-2020 with realised expenditures1 in the 2007-2013 period, there is considerable continuity in priorities and patterns. Notable exceptions include a good take-up of the new measure for cooperation, increased spending on LEADER, and overall a decline in funding for broader rural development measures. Many programmes have funds focused more strongly on a smaller range of measures and this can be for both strategic and administrative efficiency reasons. The main reasons for changes between periods are felt to be linked to changing politics at local level, fear of audit burdens, learning lessons from poor uptake of some measures in the past, and increased pressure from the European Commission and/or stakeholder groups – the former in respect of climate and environmental measures in particular, the latter more often in respect of strong support for farm investment aids.

The patterns seen among Member States at EU level are to a large extent repeated between regions within those countries – Italy, Germany, Spain and France – which operate multiple regional RDPs. Additional expertise enables us to identify how in all these contexts, relative wealth influences regional RDP choices but can lead to different outcomes. For example in Italy and Germany, some lagging regions continue to favour broader economic diversification whilst in Spain they prioritise agri-sector investment; while richer German regions opt to remove more complex measures from the EU administrative and control regimes and finance
them as state aids, whereas in France they allocate increased resources to co-financing and in Italy, the richer northern regions appear more willing to innovate in measure design.

Considering patterns and rationales, there is evidence of a more strategic approach than in the previous period but one which is simultaneously influenced by desired outcomes and by administrative considerations. Programmes are perhaps less diverse individually and there has been little enthusiasm for those new measures or approaches which are seen as administratively complex. Familiar schemes have been strengthened and there is more emphasis upon complementary planning and delivery of measures, indicated by diverse programming of the co-operation measure in particular. The greater overall focus upon farm and forestry sector support and environmental management and investment, compared to 2007-2013, is notable and it appears that LEADER is increasingly seen as the key EAFRD tool for broader rural development.

The administrative and control issues raised in our analysis are a concern for future RDP effectiveness. It seems that in a number of contexts, the basic rules and requirements of EAFRD programming, the broader CAP Pillar 2 framework and EU implementing rules, along with control requirements, procurement conditions and monitoring demands, as well as fear of sanctions, are acting as a barrier to more effective and creative use of the new and more (in theory) flexible EAFRD structure, in a variety of situations.

Looking ahead, we suggest that the Commission and Member States need to prioritise efforts to agree simpler approaches which can provide adequate accountability without unduly burdening managing and paying authorities, delivery agents and beneficiaries. From the findings of this study, we suggest that proportionality should be a more central consideration in this context, as well as a stronger focus upon the effectiveness and additionality of spending, rather than simply its efficiency.

Simplification of the CAP has been one of the main priorities of the Commission since 2014 but at present, the exercise concerns mainly its implementing rules. From this study it would appear that complexity in rural development policy occurs more widely than just in the implementing rules and we therefore suggest that simplification should equally be a goal of good policy design, it should be assessed in independent evaluations and should be a subject of recommendations for improvement. The EAFRD regulation and framework are decided in co-decision by the Parliament and the Council of the EU: this topic could therefore be an important one for these parties to feed into the next CAP reform.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/573-448

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