Fischler calls for quick agreement on direct payments for farmers

Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler has called for a quick agreement on EU farm aid to the candidate countries. At the informal meeting of ministers for agriculture from the Member States and candidate countries in Denmark, the Commissioner warned that enlargement would be blocked without this agreement.

The informal meeting of agriculture ministers, taking place
on the Danish island of Funen from 8 to 10 September, is dealing
with innovation of the agricultural sector in Europe.

In his address to the meeting, Commissioner
Fischler warned that the EU cannot begin formal negotiations with
the candidate countries on the financial aspects of the CAP until
there is a common position. He underlined that it would be
impossible to conclude enlargement negotiations at the December
Summit in Copenhagen if the Member States do not reach a compromise
on direct payments to farmers beforehand.


The EU is split on the issue of financing of the CAP.
Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden want to reduce the CAP
expenditure and are opposed to direct payments for the future
members, while France, the biggest recipient of EU agricultural
funds, wants to preserve them.

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.

Although the meeting was officially only
dedicated to innovation, most ministers used the opportunity to
discuss agricultural and fisheries reform. According to diplomats,
Commissioner Fischler conducted consultations with the ministers
ahead of the Commission's proposal of an action plan for fishing in
the Mediterranean, due at the end of September.

France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and
Ireland firmly oppose the Commission proposal for the reform of the
Common Fisheries Policy which would reduce the number of European
fishing vessels by 8,600 between 2003 and 2006.


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

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


The Member States are not expected to reach a common position
for enlargement negotiations on agriculture before a new German
government is set up following the 22 September elections.

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