Last Friday’s Future of Europe event, hosted by the Irish Farmers Journal in the RDS, was notable for quite a number of reasons.
The presence of a current and former commissioner; Mairead McGuinness and Franz Fischler, neither of them known for pulling their punches, saw the realities of the current CAP discussed.
But my attention was particularly grabbed by the second forum, involving former Taoiseach John Bruton and Brigid Laffan, one of the continent’s leading academics in relation to the EU over the last 20 years. They agreed that defence and security are the EU’s most pressing political concerns.
Only three weeks ago, the current Commissioner for Agriculture told the IFA that in comparison to the budget for defence and security, the CAP was underfunded. He was putting food security front and centre in negotiations around future CAP funding for 2027 and beyond.
The obvious question is exactly how farming is meant to navigate the next five years with the current level of support CAP provides. This was true when considering the extra asks of Farm to Fork and the increasing pressure to lower sectoral emissions, not just in Ireland but all over Europe.
The hyper-inflation of input prices since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has massively increased the exposure that family farms face. These are dangerous times in more ways than one.
But Commissioner Wojciechowski will be facing an uphill struggle, because food security might be important for European nations, but it will always take second place to actual security. And Putin’s aggression has changed everything.
When we hear keen observers of the EU like Brigid Laffan and John Bruton say that defence and security are now at the top of the agenda for member states, we should heed them. Apart from Putin and Russia’s reckless ambition, China will pursue its own interests and play all sides.
There is no indication that it will join any “coalition of the willing” to deescalate international relations. The other two BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries, India and Brazil, are both led by populists and are unlikely to provide leadership.
If Donald Trump or someone who shares his fondness for Vladimir Putin were to take the presidency back for the Republican Party, Europe will feel very much like it stands alone
That leaves us with the United States, currently tearing itself apart with a culture war that permeates every single issue of importance. If Donald Trump or someone who shares his fondness for Vladimir Putin were to take the presidency back for the Republican Party, Europe will feel very much like it stands alone.
To be clear, Laffan and Bruton were not talking of a European army, but rather a “coalition of the willing and the available”. Nation states acting together if an EU member is invaded.
The logic behind the EU being self-sufficient in food production is inescapable.
Doing so while reducing inputs, whether by eco-desire or necessity, due to their escalating cost or limited availability, is not simple. And doing so within the confines of the current CAP budget is nigh-on impossible.