Towards a sustainable and participatory European Food Policy Council

The European Union's food system is currently facing crises on multiple fronts, as it tackles environmental, climate, health, and social challenges, and anticipates Ukraine's accession, which will need to be followed by Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform. In response to these challenges, and in the context of the upcoming framework for sustainable food systems, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is proposing, through an own-initiative opinion adopted at the EESC plenary on 14 June,  the creation of a “European Food Policy Council” (EFPC).

The need for the European Food Policy Council (EFPC)

The urgency of the food system crisis necessitates rapid behavioural changes and the establishment of effective governance mechanisms. The EFPC is a timely initiative that can help achieve a more integrated and participatory approach to food policy-making, would accelerate the alignment of policies at EU, national and local levels and, most importantly, would increase the quality and legitimacy of EU food policy. While local, regional and national forums have made valuable contributions, they have proven insufficient in effectively tackling the multifaceted challenges of the food system. The EFPC would provide a science-based, multi-stakeholder and multi-level platform that enhances the integration and participation of the wide range of players in food policy-making.

The role of the EESC

The EESC, the European institution representing organised civil society, stands prepared to provide a convening space for the EFPC, similar to its successful role in the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform. This collaboration would strengthen the EFPC's institutional support, transparency and trustworthiness.

The rapporteur for the opinion Piroska Kállay said: We strongly believe that inclusiveness and dialogue among various food system stakeholders and authorities will increase the quality and legitimacy of food policy-making and that a European Food Policy Council is a tool to achieve a more integrated, participatory and democratic approach to food governance.

Key objectives and composition

The EFPC aims to accelerate the alignment of policies at EU, national, and local levels while enhancing the quality and legitimacy of EU food policy. It would contribute to fostering sustainable and balanced rural and urban development. The council's composition would include academic experts, scientists, representatives from the food supply chain, civil society organisations, education system players, youth representatives and institutional representatives from the EU institutions – the Parliament, Council, Commission, EESC, and Committee of the Regions. Over time, the EFPC would also include representatives from local, regional, and national levels, ensuring equal participation of Member State representatives at EU level.

Enhancing governance and coherence

Following the opinion, the EFPC would serve as an institutional, independent body that provides sound advice and evidence-based policy options to the EU institutions. It would improve coherence between different policy areas, such as the common agricultural policy (CAP), common fisheries policy, Farm to Fork strategy, legislation related to healthy diets, public procurement and education policies. By establishing priority content on food in the education system, the EFPC would promote social innovations for the wellbeing of all food chain players taking into account the need for generational renewal of farmers.

Building a network of FPCs

The EFPC could eventually lead to the establishment of a network of Food Policy Councils (FPCs) at EU level, creating a platform for the exchange of best practices, insights, and experiences among FPCs across Europe. Such collaboration would inform and influence EU policy, leading to more coordinated and effective approaches to food system transformation.