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News Governments diverge over EU farm reforms

Concerned URL
Release date 23/07/2002
Contributor janhei

EU agriculture ministers yesterday held their first debate on the European Commission's recent reform proposals for the common agricultural policy (CAP). The session confirmed general approval for higher rural development funding but fundamental divisions over other issues between a smaller group of pro-reform countries and a larger group opposed to radical change. Denmark, Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany are in the first camp. All gave a broad welcome to the Commission's plan, styled as a mid-term review of the 2000-2006 CAP funding period. Among the other ten states, France, Spain and Ireland voiced particularly strong criticisms. The Commission's proposals would mean a significant boost in the CAP's environmental sensitivity, for example through a reduction in price supports in favour of direct payments to farmers, which would be made conditional on good environmental behaviour (ED 10/07/02 Introducing the package, EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler attempted to anticipate key criticisms being levelled by critics. The proposals do not exceed the the terms of EU governments' 1999 agreement on the 2000-2006 CAP funding period, he maintained, since this "merely set the minimum scope for the mid-term review. In any case, changes now "are urgent". The proposals did not call into question the "European model" of agriculture, he continued, nor did they mean that the CAP was coming to resemble a form of welfare. In fact quite the opposite, since farmers would be brought into closer contact with the market. Finally, he claimed, the plans did not mean any capitulation to EU trading partners in forthcoming world trade liberalisation talks but, to the contrary, would strengthen the EU's negotiating position.

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