Mariann Fischer Boel
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Mariann Fischer Boel
|European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development|
22 November 2004 – 9 February 2010
|President||José Manuel Barroso|
|Preceded by||Franz Fischler|
Sandra Kalniete (Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries)
|Succeeded by||Dacian Cioloş|
|Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries|
27 November 2001 – 2 August 2004
|Prime Minister||Anders Fogh Rasmussen|
|Preceded by||Ritt Bjerregaard|
|Succeeded by||Hans Christian Schmidt|
|Born||15 April 1943|
Mariann Fischer Boel (Danish pronunciation: [maʁian fiɕɐ ˈboːˀl];[check the transcription of the first name] born 15 April 1943, Åsum) is a Danish politician, serving as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2004 to 2009. A member of the party Venstre, she had previously been minister of agriculture and foods since 2002, in the government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
In 2008, she was given the European Taxpayers' Award from the Taxpayers' Association of Europe for her decision to abolish export refunds for exports of live cattle from the EU, and for her ongoing efforts to improve the transparency of agricultural payments.
In 2008, she was presented with the Danish European Movement's price for "European of the Year".
In 2008, she was awarded the Wine Personality of the Year 2008 award by the International Wine Challenge, which said, about her efforts to drag the European wine industry into the 21st century, that "family vineyards might have been pulled up and the family winemaking tradition lost had it not been for the intrepid heroine from the north".
General approach to the CAP
As Commissioner, FIscher Boel has based her work on three guiding principles:
- The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) needed to take European farming towards still greater competitiveness and market-responsiveness by placing production decisions more firmly in the hands of farmers rather than administrators.
- The CAP needed to address the needs of rural areas as a whole, not only those of agriculture.
- In particular, the CAP needed to reflect growing concern about environmental issues, including climate change.
She has continued the CAP reform process, notably within the three sectors that were exempted from the reform of 2003: sugar, fruit and vegetables, and wine. The sectors had initially been left alone partly because reforming them presented huge political difficulties.
Boel also took steps to bolster the EU Rural Development Policy, preparing it to deliver more coherent and balanced results against clear objectives in the new financial period of 2007 to 2013.
Later in her mandate, she carried out a review of the CAP, which became known as the “CAP Health Check” and made further policy adjustments to ensure that the reformed CAP was working as intended and was addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
When Boel took office in 2004, the EU had regulated its sugar sector in more or less the same way for some 40 years, supporting a domestic sugar price far above world market prices to keep production in place in each country.
Although the EU did not have a comparative advantage in sugar production, its policy was creating large surpluses that were exported with subsidies, which was not welcomed by many of its trade partners.
With Boel's reform, agreed in 2005, the benchmark EU sugar price was cut by 36 per cent over several years, which helped to bring the EU sugar industry back into a sustainable and more natural balance with the rest of the world market, as a net importer rather than exporter.
Bringing sugar beet farmers into the Single Payment Scheme gave them support which was in line with the need for competitiveness and which also depended on environmental standards (through crosscompliance). The reforms are also funding restructuring programmes in areas that sugar factories shut down, helping workers laid off to find new jobs and putting disused factory sites back into good environmental condition.
Fruit and vegetable reform
In 2006, she proposed reforms to the fruit and vegetable sector, which was agreed in principle in June 2007. It gives extra incentives to producers to band together into "producer organisations", which can negotiate with retailers on a more equal footing. Producer organisations are now also in charge of managing market crises through disposal schemes and other methods, and they must spend a minimum share of their budget on care for the environment.
An aspect of the reform, very much inspired by emerging public needs, was the mandate to draw up a school fruit scheme to which the EU agreed in November 2008. It was launched in the 2009/2010 school year and operates in 22 EU countries. It provides funding to distribute fruit and vegetables in schools as well as to support programmes to educate children, parents and teachers about healthy diets.
As European Union agriculture commissioner, Boel has been a vocal advocate for various vine pull schemes in an attempt to compensate for the 1.7 billion bottle wine surplus that Europe has had for the last several vintages. Every year, the European Union spends 500 million euros to distill the excess wine into industrial alcohol.
Under the 2007 reform, subsidies for distilling unwanted wines are being phased out, and the money is being spent instead on a broad menu of measures to make the wine sector more competitive and to care for vine landscapes. In an important step to prepare for liberalisation, a three-year voluntary "grubbing-up scheme", with strong environmental safeguards, is offering money to uncompetitive producers who wish to dig up their vines and leave the sector.
Critics have claimed that the implementation of Boel's plan will see a 5% drop in wine industry jobs and 7% decrease in wine prices by 2009, but most agree that the price of wine will eventually rise again. Supporters of Boel's plan have noted that European wine consumption has decreased an average of 0.65% a year and that in a few years, imports of New World wine into Europe will exceed European exports, which will also have negative effects on wine industry jobs and wine prices.
CAP health check
In 2008, she carried out a review of the CAP, which was dubbed the "CAP Health Check". The package of adjustments was agreed to in November 2008, with the aim of keeping the CAP to the spirit of the 2003 reforms in the changing circumstances.
Under the health check, the EU's rural development policy was given a boost in order to help farms and other rural businesses respond to pressing challenges, such as fighting and adjusting to climate change, managing water more carefully, providing and using renewable energy, conserving biodiversity and pursuing innovation in all of these areas.
In order to finance the new projects, a key element of the Health Check agreement is that by 2012, EU farmers will be contributing an extra 5% of their income support payments to rural development policy (through modulation) for use in projects to help address the concerns listed above. A further 4% is being transferred annually from all income support payment amounts above a threshold of €300,000. That finally establishes a principle long supported by the public: farmers who receive high levels of income support from the EU budget should make larger "contributions" to projects of general public interest.
To make farming even more market-orientated, the Health Check is decoupling a greater share of farmers' income support payments.
The Health Check is also removing constraints on farmers’ freedom to produce more in response to market demand. The requirement to set aside a portion of their arable land is abolished, and milk production quotas are being enlarged to prepare for their removal in 2015.
Increasing transparency, accountability and cutting red tape
During her five years in office, she introduced new rules, which have improved drastically transparency on CAP payments. Since April 2009, all member states have been required to maintain websites listing beneficiaries of CAP funding. For each beneficiary, the websites state the full name, the municipality and the value of funding received. The EU’s EUROPA website contains links to these national websites.
She also succeeded in becoming the first agricultural commissioner to get the green light for the CAP spendings from the Court of Auditors, which means that 98% of all spendings were free of errors. She has also overseen a large amount of simplification projects, which have cut administrative burden and red tape in CAP. Most famously, she abolished marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetable, which has led to the reintroduction of the curvy cucumber on supermarket shelves.
Helping the world to feed itself
In 2008, she proposed to make available a so-called "food facility" worth €1 billion over three years, which has given a much-needed boost to agricultural production in poorer countries, such as by helping farmers to access fertiliser and seed. It has also funded safety net systems to provide for the basic food needs of vulnerable people in these countries, including children.
- M. Frank & D. Macle "Europe's Plan to Pull Up Vines Decried... Again", The Wine Spectator, p. 15, Sept. 30, 2007.
| Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
Hans Christian Schmidt
| Danish European Commissioner
as European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries
| European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development