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21.3.1.  Consultations of interested parties and experts at EU level

    A vast number of experts are involved in drafting and implementing the common agricultural policy. The Commission, acting in accordance with the EC Treaty, naturally consults the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on all its major proposals in the field of the CAP. The ESC is made up of representatives of the various socio-professional categories and farmers are therefore also in its midst [see section 4.2.3]. In addition, the Commission cooperates closely with farmers' professional bodies to ensure that allowance is made for their interests in the drafting of common policy and the management of the common market organisations. This is why a large number of professional farming bodies operate at European level, the most important of which are: the Committee of Agricultural Organisations in the European Community (COPA), an umbrella body for farmers; the General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the EC (COGECA), which represents farm cooperatives; and the Commission of the Agriculture and Food Industries (CIAA), representing these industrial sectors. A communication strategy is intended to provide consistent, objective and comprehensive information on the common agricultural policy both inside and outside the EU [Regulation 814/2000 and Regulation 2208/2002].

    However, consultation of these large general organisations tends to be on the mainstream policies of the CAP. The Commission rapidly felt a need to be better informed on specific problems in each agricultural sector. As a consequence, as part of the process of implementing the common market organisations, it has set up an advisory committee for each product or product group falling under a common market organisation. The socio-economic interest groups represented in these committees are: agricultural producers, agricultural co-operatives, the agricultural and food-manufacturing industries, the agricultural products and foodstuffs trade, farm workers and workers in the food industry, and consumers. The advisory committees give an opinion on the proposals put before them during the drafting phase within the Commission. No vote is taken for the advisory committee opinion, which is in no way binding for the Commission [Decision 2013/767]. However, the advisory committees enable the Commission to learn the views of interested parties on the major sectors of farm policy (arable crops, animal products, etc.) and they are often seen by their members as opportunities for dialogue and participation in decision-making, a highly important factor for building a consensual policy in a sector involving very different interests [see section 9.4]. These advisory committees must not be confused with the management and regulatory committees mentioned below [see section 21.3.2].

    Scientific committees, made up of experts from the Member States , give advice to the Commission on the very important matters of consumer health and food safety. Three scientific committees on consumer safety and environmental risks and a Pool of Scientific Advisors on Risk Assessment are required to provide sound and timely scientific advice for Commission proposals, decisions and policy relating to consumer safety, public health and the environment [Decision 2008/721, see section 11.2].

    After all this preparatory work inside the services of the Commission, once a Commission proposal in the area of the common agricultural policy has been put before it, the Council entrusts the preparation of its proceedings to a committee of senior officials known as the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA). In the area of agriculture, the SCA assumes the role normally fulfilled by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) [see section 4.1.4].

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

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