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Mariann Fischer-Boel

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Mariann Fischer-Boel

Mariann Fischer Boel
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
In office
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
In office
27 November 2001 – 2 August 2004
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Preceded by Ritt Bjerregaard
Succeeded by Hans Christian Schmidt
Personal details
Born (1943-04-15) 15 April 1943 (age 71)
Åsum (da), Denmark
Political party Venstre

Mariann Fischer Boel (Danish pronunciation: [ˈmaʁian ˈfiɕɐ ˈboˀl]) (born 15 April 1943, Åsum (da)) 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. The IWC quoted her efforts to drag the European wine industry into the 21st century, saying 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 which the reform of 2003 had passed by: sugar, fruit and vegetables, and wine. These sectors had initially been left alone partly because reforming them presented huge political difficulties.

Fischer Boel also took steps to 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. This review, which became known as the “CAP Health Check”, made further policy adjustments to ensure that the reformed CAP was working as intended and was addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

The Sugar reform

When Fischer 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 every country of the Union.

Although the EU did not have a comparative advantage in sugar production, its policy was creating large surpluses which was exported with subsidies – a fact which was not welcomed by many of its trade partners.

With Fischer Boel's reform, agreed in 2005, the benchmark EU sugar price was cut by 36 per cent over several years. This 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 cross-compliance). The reforms are also funding restructuring programmes in areas where sugar factories shut down – helping workers laid off to find new jobs, and putting disused factory sites back into good environmental condition.

The Fruit and Vegetable Reform

In 2006 Fischer Boel proposed a reform the European Fruit and Vegetable sector, which was agreed in outline in June 2007. The reform 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 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, which the EU agreed in November 2008. The EU schoolfruit scheme was launched in the schoolyear 2009/2010 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 diet.

The Wine reform

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 though 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 percent a year and that in a few years imports of New World wine into Europe will surplus European exports which will also have negative effects on wine industry jobs and wine prices.[1]

The CAP Health Check

In 2008 Fischer Boel carried out a review of the CAP, which was dubbed "Health Check". the CAP Health Check. The package of adjustments was agreed in November 2008 with the aim of keeping the CAP true to the spirit of the 2003 reforms in 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 these new projects, a key element of the Health Check agreement is that, by 2012, EU farmers will be contributing an extra 5 per cent 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 per cent is being transferred annually from all income support payment amounts above a threshold of € 300 000. This finally establishes a "progressive" principle long supported by the public – namely, that farmers who receive high levels of income support from the EU budget should make larger "contributions" to projects of general public interest.

In order 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, Fischer Boel introduced new rules which have improved drastically transparency on CAP payments. Since April 2009, all EU 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.

Fischer Boel also succeeded in becoming the first ever 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, Fischer Boel proposed to make available a so-called "food facility" worth € 1 billion over three years. This food facility has given a much-needed boost to agricultural production in poorer countries, for example 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.


External links

  • Mariann Fischer Boel's blog
Political offices
Preceded by
Ritt Bjerregaard
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
Succeeded by
Hans Christian Schmidt
Preceded by
Poul Nielson
Danish European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Connie Hedegaard
Preceded by
Franz Fischler
Sandra Kalniete

as European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
Succeeded by
Dacian Cioloş

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