Commission proposes draft CAP negotiating positions

The Commission submitted draft negotiating
positions on agriculture to the Council on 15 April. The
positions are based on the Commission’s strategy for these
negotiations, adopted at the end of January
2002.

The draft negotiating positions closely follow the
Commission’s strategy for the agricultural chapter of the
enlargement negotiations. The only significant change,
according to Commission sources, is a slight adaptation of
some production quotas, based on new data provided by the
candidate countries.

The strategy opposes granting 100
percent direct aid payments to farmers in the candidate
countries because it would slow down restructuring.

The Commission proposed that direct
payments be introduced over a transition period of ten
years: for 2004, 2005, 2006 it suggested direct payments
equivalent to 25, 30 and 35 percent of EU levels,
respectively, reaching 100 percent in 2013. According to
the proposal, this aid could be topped up with national
funds.

It also proposes substantial aid for
rural development programmes to help the candidate
countries implement the necessary restructuring of their
agricultural sectors.

The new Member States would have full
and immediate access to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
market measures, such as cereal intervention. Their
governments should have the option of granting direct
payments in the form of an area payment, de-coupled from
production and paid per hectare.

 

Commissioner Fischler

has called for a realistic approach to negotiations on the
agricultural issues. He warned the candidate countries not
to "raise false expectations amongst farmers". "To insist
on 100 percent direct payments and make this point over and
over again will not be a winning strategy. It is clear that
the negotiating margins are narrow."

Enlargement Commissioner, Günther
Verheugen

, has described the Commission's proposal as "the best
possible offer for the candidate countries". He points out
that no direct payments were foreseen in Agenda 2000 that
EU leaders adopted in March 1999 at the European Council in
Berlin to prepare the EU financial framework for
enlargement.

The Polish Agriculture Minister, Jaroslav
Kalinowski

, described the Commission's proposal as "neither generous
nor fair". He underlined that the principle of fair
competition should be preserved after enlargement, and
asked how that could be done when farmers in the current
and future Member States will be receiving different levels
of support.

Hungary

is also opposed to the proposed 10-year transition periods
for direct payments. However, it is satisfied that the
Commission's proposal for the wheat quota accepts Hungary's
demands to a large extent.

Slovenia

finds most of the Commission's proposal for quotas
unacceptable. Already a net food importer, it wants to
maintain agriculture-related income at the pre-accession
levels.

 

According to the "road map" for enlargement negotiations,
the Member States should adopt common negotiating positions
on agriculture under the EU Spanish Presidency, by 30 June
2002.

 

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