Member States remain divided on agricultural and fisheries reform

The 15 EU Farm Ministers have remained divided in their discussion of agricultural and fisheries reforms at the Council meeting in Brussels on 23-24 September.

Britain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, who are in favour of a reform of the CAP, supported the Commission’s proposal for a 5 per cent reduction of the guaranteed intervention price for cereals in case of a price decrease in international markets. The other Member States refused this measure as unnecessary because European prices are currently competitive in the world markets.

The proposal is part of the Commission’s plan for the CAP mid-term review, tabled in July. The Commission proposes de-coupling the link between production and subsidies from 2004 on, and to gradually redirect direct payments for farmers to rural development programmes.

The ministers also remained firmly divided on the issue of fisheries reform, where they are due to adopt a new regulation by the end of the year. A group of six states calling themselves “Friends of Fishing” – France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland – published their own reform proposals. These countries reject the reforms proposes by the Commission that aim at preserving the collapsing fish stocks in EU waters.

 

Seven EU Farm Ministersdefended the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in a letter to several European newspapers on 23 September while the Council started discussing CAP reform. The Farm Ministers of Luxemburg, Spain, Austria, Portugal, France, the Walloon region of Belgium and Ireland are calling for a stop to the CAP reform process. Led by the French, the ministers protest against "false accusations" about the negative effects of the CAP on the environment, food safety, developing countries and EU budget.

Other Member States, are in favour of CAP reforms, proposed by Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler in July.Britain, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Swedenin particular fear that the 40 million euro annual CAP budget could get out of control once the EU expands to 10 new members in 2004. The Flemish region of Belgium is also in favour of CAP reform.

Italy, Greece and Finlandhave not yet joined any of the two groups.

TheFrench Minister of Agriculture HervÇaymardsaid that France would like to prepare the post-2006 CAP reform together with Germany. France refuses any reform before that date.

TheFarm Commissioner Franz Fischlerinsisted on the necessity to reform the CAP due to world trade negotiations, EU enlargement and preparation of the new EU budget (2007-2013). He warned the ministers that by delaying the reform they risk being overtaken by these events which are already underway.

TheEuropean Consumers’ Organisation(BEUC) has called for "a profound reform of the CAP as a matter of urgency". BEUC's 34 national consumer organisations warned that the CAP in its current form is "unsustainable financially, socially, economically and environmentally." BEUC considers the Commission's proposal for the CAP mid-term review as "a small step in the right direction", but the proposals do not go far enough, therefore consumer organisations are urging the Member States to go further and strengthen these proposals.

 

Reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are currently under discussion by the EU Member States.

 

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