A more dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing act

Irish Examiner - - Opinion -

The Euro­pean Court of Au­di­tors has con­cluded that a new planning process for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment takes too long and is too com­plex. The court found that short­com­ings, which hin­der per­for­mance and re­sults, are built into the sys­tem. The pri­mary ob­jec­tives of EU ru­ral de­vel­op­ment pol­icy aim to make agri­cul­ture more com­pet­i­tive, en­sure the sus­tain­able man­age­ment of nat­u­ral re­sources, and achieve the bal­anced de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral economies and com­mu­ni­ties. The EU plans to spend nearly €100bn on ru­ral de­vel­op­ment up to 2020. It al­ready chan­nels €58bn a year — 38% of the EU bud­get — to the ru­ral econ­omy, through CAP. These are vast sums of money and should have a pos­i­tive im­pact on our coun­try­side. How­ever, bal­anc­ing agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment with en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity is be­com­ing ever more dif­fi­cult.

Months af­ter Hitler sent his armies to in­vade Rus­sia, some of his sol­diers found the end­less steppe dispir­it­ing. De­spite ad­vanc­ing for months, they were still cross­ing an al­most empty en­vi­ron­ment. These un­chang­ing plains had a deep psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact. Any­one trav­el­ling through Mun­ster’s fer­tile re­gions today might be for­given for feel­ing as those Ger­mans did — much of the prov­ince is ded­i­cated to in­dus­trial-scale milk pro­duc­tion. This is hardly bal­anced de­vel­op­ment. The ques­tion of how long EU tax­pay­ers will sup­port this pol­lut­ing mono­cul­ture be­comes ever more press­ing.

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