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COPA: European agricultural union

The Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community signed on 25 March 1957 already contained the most important framework provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The relationship between the Community authorities and the representatives of the agricultural sector was left open by the Treaty, but the Commission expressed its desire for close cooperation at an early stage and invited representatives of agricultural organisations to attend the 1958 Stresa Conference as observers.

Farmers themselves were convinced of the importance of the Community for their sector, and on 6 September 1958, the first European representative organisation, COPA, was created.

One year later, on 24 September 1959, the agricultural cooperatives of the European Community created their European umbrella organisation, COGECA (General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives).

COPA’s Secretariat was established in Brussels on 1 April 1959, merging with that of COGECA on 1 December 1962.

COPA: The dynamic force of European farmers

When COPA (Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations) first started out it had 13 member organisations from the then six Member States. Today COPA is made up of 60 organisations from the countries of the European Union and 36 partner organisations from other European countries such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.


This broad membership allows COPA to represent both the general and specific interests of farmers in the European Union. Since its inception, COPA has been recognised by the Community authorities as the organisation speaking on behalf of the European agricultural sector as a whole.

COPA: Defence and development of the European model of multifunctional and sustainable agriculture

The objectives of COPA are:

  • to examine any matters related to the development of the Common Agricultural Policy
  • to represent the interests of the agricultural sector as a whole
  • to seek solutions which are of common interest, and
  • to maintain and develop relations with the Community authorities and with any other representative organisations or social partners established at European level.

COPA: An advisory, decision making and representative process

The working structures of COPA are determined by three basic ideas:

  • to enable representatives of the European Union from the various agricultural production sectors and areas to discuss matters concerning their respective sector or area and to suggest solutions to the problems posed
  • to coordinate work in the overall context of agriculture, agricultural policy and policy in general
  • to represent all sectors and areas together.

These ideas have resulted in the following structures:

 

Praesidium                              
The Praesidium consists of one representative per member organisation. Normally, these representatives are the presidents of the member organisations.

Apart from these national representatives, the following additional persons take part in Praesidium meetings: the President of COGECA, the President of CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers) and the Chairperson of the COPA Women's Committee.

The COPA President, who chairs the Praesidium meetings, may also invite any additional persons whose presence is regarded as useful. This applies in particular to the Chairmen or Chairwomen of the various COPA Working Parties, as well as to the Chairmen or Chairwomen of the joint COPA/COGECA Working Parties, whenever a subject relevant to their respective sectors is on the agenda.

The Praesidium normally meets every second month.

Its main function is to make all necessary decisions and organise COPA’s activities.

Praesidium positions are taken jointly with COGECA whenever they concern the agricultural sector as a whole.


Presidency
The Praesidium elects from among its members a President and six Vice-Presidents for a two year term of office. The Presidency of COPA, which normally meets once a month, and the Presidency of COGECA together form a Coordination Committee which tries to reach agreement as far as the activities and positions of COPA and COGECA are concerned.


Policy Coordination Committee
Every month, the Policy Coordination Committee examines certain major horizontal issues and proposals from the COPA/COGECA Working Parties before they are submitted to the Praesidium. Every week, the Committee also exchanges information, coordinates the activities and follows up the decisions made by the Praesidium.


Working Parties
COPA has 50 Working Parties, dealing either with specific, production-related topics (e.g. cereals, beef meat) or with general questions (e.g. environment, rural development). Most of these Working Parties are constituted jointly with COGECA, but both COPA and COGECA also have separate Working Parties of their own. The Working Parties examine all questions concerning their sector, either on their own initiative or at the request of the Praesidium or the President of COPA.

COPA and the European Institutions

The European Commission
COPA’s Praesidium regularly meets the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in order to discuss the general development of the Common Agricultural Policy, the market situation and specific issues of particular importance (such as the European Union’s external trade relations).

Meetings with other Commissioners and with the Commission President are arranged whenever the need arises.

As for the more technical issues, regular contact is made between COPA experts and those of the Commission. This contact can take various forms: positions put forward by COPA delegates at the Commission’s Advisory Groups, personal contact at staff level, attendance of Commission officials at COPA meetings, transmission of letters and written positions.


Council of Ministers, European Parliament, Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions
COPA can communicate with the Council both directly and indirectly. Direct representations consist in the transmission of COPA positions on the subject in question, and occasionally in meetings with the President of the Council or the Council as a whole.

Indirect representations are more frequent - these consist of contact at national level between COPA’s member organisations and the national ministers or their staff. Such contact, in order to be successful, must be based on the joint EU-wide positions established at COPA.

There is also regular contact between COPA and the European Parliament and particularly with the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the political groups.

Contact between COPA and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is particularly close, since a number of representatives of COPA’s member organisations are members of the EESC.


European socio-economic partners and European civil society
COPA’s Secretariat, its member organisations and their members maintain active contact with other socio-economic and civil society representatives who are directly and indirectly related to the agricultural sector. These meetings may take the form of bilateral contact, participation at General Assemblies, and official or informal meetings.


COPA on the international stage
COPA enjoys privileged relations with many organisations beyond the European Union’s frontiers. Whether these organisations are national or international, agricultural or general, the aim of these relations is the same: to strengthen dialogue with all actors who are relevant for European agriculture.

 

 
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