Travelling to Brussels yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to read the Council of Ministers papers for today’s meeting.
(It was pretty busy and the queues at security were long, but at least I wasn’t travelling with small children, cuddly toys etc. One stressed parent was heard calling “Audrey, those rabbits HAVE to go through the scanner!”).
Looking at the new Cypriot Presidency’s workplan for July to December, my jargon detector went off when I read that they are aiming for a “partial general approach” on the CAP proposals by the end of the year. What on earth does that mean?
Well, both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are carrying out their first readings. The classic procedure is for the Parliament to complete its first reading first; the Council then decides its position on the Parliament’s suggestions. When the Council does that, it’s called the “common position” as it represents the views of the Council as a whole and not individual member states.
But sometimes the member state governments decide they don’t want to let the MEPs go first. In order to take the initiative, they take up an agreed position among themselves in the Council before the Parliament has completed its first reading. That way the MEPs, when reaching their first reading position, can bear in mind the member states’ views rather than starting with a blank sheet of paper.
When the Council does this, it’s known as reaching a “general approach”. Presumably the name was chosen to sound deliberately informal, as formally speaking the Council shouldn’t have its go until after the Parliament.
So that’s what’s planned for the CAP under the Cypriot Presidency. Except they obviously think they won’t be able to reach agreement on the entire package, just parts of it, hence “partial general approach”.