MEPs back gradual introduction of farm subsidies for new EU members

The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee
has backed the Commission’s proposal to gradually introduce
farm subsidies to the future EU Member States over a period of
10 years.

The draft report on enlargement and agriculture (tabled by
the Swedish Liberal MEP, Karl Erik Olsson), unanimously
adopted by the European Parliament Agriculture Committee on
27 May describes the Commission’s proposal as a “reasonable
option” and a “realistic proposal for a negotiating
package”.

The committee warns that introducing
farm subsidies in the new Member States in full immediately
would create an imbalance between agricultural and
non-agricultural incomes in rural areas in the candidate
countries. The report states that a big cash inflow could
result in low productivity and would discourage
investment.

The report underlines that priority
should instead be given to supporting rural
development.

The Committee calls on the Commission to
start discussing the reform of the Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP) after 2007 with the candidate countries. It is
against using the CAP mid-term, planned in July 2002, to
make major changes.

The report will be tabled for vote at
the June plenary session of the European Parliament in
Strasbourg.

 

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 candidate countries

demand that the principle of fair competition be preserved
after enlargement, which can only be achieved by giving
equal levels of farm subsidies. They also underline that
production quotas proposed by the Commission are too low,
and would lead to the shrinking of agricultural production
in the candidate countries.

 

The Commission submitted draft negotiating positions on
agriculture to the Council on 15 April. 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.

The Commission also proposed 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.

 

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. However, it is possible that there will be no final
position on direct payments before the German general
elections in September.

 

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