Will farmers from the candidate countries get a fair deal from future EU budgets?

23-01-2004

Only 3% of the EU's population are farmers yet Agriculture accounts for 50% of the European Commission's budget. And that budget is coming under pressure as the EU enlarges. The question is will Europeans be willing to pay more in order to keep subsidising farmers incomes? Agriculture spokesmen and women from EU candidate countries are meeting in Vienna at the moment on how to explain Agriculture and the EU's Common Agriculture Policy. Daniel Kapp is spokesman for Austria's Agriculture minister.

Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission "The message for them is that there will be gradual integration into European policies and the financial outlook is currently discussed for the years after 2006 or 2013."

Taking it in a broader political context, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, is now floating the idea of an EU tax so that citizens will see that this amount of money goes to the European Union, at the same time the European Union (Commission) is saying we want more money in the EU's budget. That must spell bad news for the EU's agriculture budget?

"Actually not because I believe this proposal is an attempt to broaden the financial basis of the European Union, leaving it not only to the net contributors but to broaden it and bring it into a European perspective with all nations contributing their share to the European budget."

But it will become much more obvious to European citizens that they are paying for the European Commission, where it is somewhat hidden at the moment, and they are going to say well so much of that is going to agriculture - why?

"Now we have to differentiate here. The European agriculture policy is the only policy that is completely integrated. National budgets have ceased to exist on this level. Now if we were to integrate all other European policies to the extent that agricultural policies have been integrated - that means that all money sent to Brussels and spent from Brussels - education, defence, research - so if we take all public expenditure, the amount that is spent for agriculture is minimal. I believe it is something around 3%."

The WTO, from this direction is coming the greatest pressure, the United States and the WTO, for Europe to reduce its contributions to farmers and its subsidies to farmers. Is this the trend for the future that farmers will get less and this will become increasingly difficult for you to deal with?

"A farmer expects his revenue from the price. Now the development is that he cannot do so. Society expects from farmers that which it isn't prepared to pay for at the cash desk of a supermarket i.e. animal welfare and environmental issues are not relevant in the market price so this has to be supplemented through public spending. In the course of agriculture reform the EU has made itself fit for the WTO. It has complied with WTO rules and standards. Yes there is pressure from the United States but we will also have to strongly look at what the US is doing in terms of subsidies - food aid - which some see as a hidden export subsidy. And the WTO process is ongoing."

23-01-2004

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