Dutch Government insists on opposition to direct farm payments

The Dutch State Secretary for European Affairs Atzo Nicolaï has warned that EU enlargement could fail if Member States do not agree to phase out direct payments to farmers.

Mr Atzo Nicolaï said in an interview with the Financial Times
that “the Dutch government cannot agree to providing income support
to new members if there is no agreement for phasing out direct
payments to member states’ farmers.” “If we cannot agree this
common position with the member states, it will be a big problem
for enlargement.”

 

The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Britain are
all net contributors to the EU budget, nearly half of which is
spent on the Common Agricultural Policy. They would all like to see
direct payments to farmers phased out for the current Member States
before they are granted to future EU members.

France, the biggest recipient of EU agricultural
funds, wants to preserve the direct payments intact. France is
supported by
Luxemburg, Spain, Austria, Portugal, the Walloon region of
Belgium and Ireland
, who called for a stop to the CAP
reform process in a joint letter to several European newspapers on
23 September.

The
net contributors would like to see the CAP
reformed in the next EU financial perspective, covering the years
from 2007 to 2013. Up to 1O new member states could be involved in
negotiations on this issue.

The
Flemish region of Belgium is also in favour of CAP
reform, while
Italy, Greece and Finland have not taken a
position in this dispute.

The
candidate countries have refused the Commission's
proposal on direct payments as discriminatory. They want equal
treatment from the start, or at least from 2006 when the EU is due
to adopt new financial perspectives.

 

The Commission proposed a mid-term review of the EU Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) on 10 July 2002, which aims to put the
CAP on the road towards sustainable farming. The proposal steers
the CAP towards more rural development and less direct payments to
farmers (see
EURACTIV of 10 July
2002
).

The Commission's proposal for negotiations on
the CAP with the candidate countries goes in the same direction.
The draft negotiating positions on agriculture, submitted to the
Council on 15 April, propose that direct payments be introduced
over a transition period of ten years. For 2004, 2005, 2006, the
Commission 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 EU Member States are expected to adopt their negotiating
position on agriculture at the Brussels Summit on 24-25 October and
start negotiations with the candidate countries in early November.

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