Reforms of the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP) will fail to free up resources for environmental protection and enhancement, according to the UK's House of Lords select committee on the European Communities, which oversees the development of EU policy and its effects on the UK. In a report on the reform deal reached at the Berlin Council earlier this year (ENDS Daily 26 March), the committee expresses "deep disappointment" and describes the agreement as a "missed opportunity" to make real progress towards addressing environmental concerns raised by the way the EU supports its farmers. The committee believes that there are "convincing arguments" for providing payments to farmers for the "delivery of positive environmental goods" and argues that the continued "subordination" of environmental issues to production-based payment schemes has led to an "explicit failure" to identify and pursue environmental goals. Although the committee welcomed the fact that some agri-environment schemes would be able to continue under the reforms, it warned that attaching environmental conditions to production subsidies would give them a "spurious legitimacy" which may make CAP reform more difficult in the future. The Berlin reforms were undertaken under the banner of Agenda 2000, a programme to prepare the EU for its anticipated eastwards expansion.
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