On 7 July 2011, MEPs called the Commission to take steps to prevent an immediate and sharp cutback in food aid to the poorest people in the EU following the cut in funding for the Most Deprived Persons Scheme from €500 million in 2011 to €113 million in 2012.
This sudden reduction is set against a recent European Court of Justice ruling stating that the Food Aid scheme programme can only use food from intervention stocks and may not spend EU money to buy food supplies on the open market (see more information in the background below)
In its resolution, the European Parliament calls on the Commission and Council to develop a transitional solution for the remaining years of the funding period (2012 and 2013) and on all stakeholders to assess carefully the appropriateness of the food aid scheme, in particular as an element of the Commong Agriculture Policy.
Importantly, the EP underlined that high-quality and healthy nutrition is especially crucial for children and contributes towards satisfying their developmental and educational needs. They also stressed the important contribution the scheme has towards providing aid at European level to the most vulnerable and deprived members of society, especially in light of the social crisis.
The Commission is also asked to alter the regulation for the most deprived persons scheme, to find a solution to the current deadlock on this issue at Council level.
According to the European Commission’s own estimates, 43 million people in the European Union were at risk of food poverty in 2009, a number on the rise due to the economic and financial crisis, sharp increase in food prices and price volatitility. Moreover, the Commission estimates that 80 million people in the EU are at risk of poverty and that due to the financial and economic crisis the number of people affected by poverty are increasin. One of the five priorities of the EU 2020 Strategy is to reduce poverty and social exclusion in the European Union.
The scheme for food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union, set up in 1987 under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), currently provides food aid for 13 million people suffering from poverty in 19 Member States and has distribution chains involving some 240 food banks and charities.
In previous years, the programme became to rely on market purchases as a consequence of the reform of the CAP, with a consequence in reduced levels of intervention stocks, the traditional source of supplies for the scheme. It was also said that the scheme did not support healthy and nutritious diets for the most vulnerable. Read EPHA briefing on the Most Depreived Persons Scheme here.
In September 2010, the Commission presented a revised proposal. The proposal is currently pending a decision in the Council.
On 13 April 2011, the EU Court of Justice stated that the programme can only use food from intervention stocks and may not spend EU money to buy food supplies on the open market. As a result of this judgment, the provision of food aid regarding additional purchases of food on the market cannot be used as a legal basis for food distribution to EU citizens in need.
Following the court of ruling, the Commission proposal for 2012 entails a sudden reduction in funding from €500 million in 2011 to €113 million in 2012.
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