EU agriculture ministers meeting in Brno on Tuesday pledged to tackle the question of unequal subsidies to old and new member states, but made no commitment to speed up the process. Farmers from the EU newcomer states, who joined the block in or after 2004, get lower subsidies than the old members and have been calling for this discrepancy to be removed by 2010, instead of 2013 as planned. The 2013 target date for equal payments was something the newcomers agreed to in accession talks.
An informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers is underway in the Moravian city of Brno. The main issue on the agenda is a controversy over the current division of subsidies within the block and plans for equal payments after 2013. The EU states who joined in 2004 complain that five years after EU accession they are entitled to only 60 percent of the subsidies afforded to old members. Czech farmers say their livelihood is threatened due to unequal competition within the block and together with farmers in Poland and Hungary are pushing for equal payments before 2013. The governments of newcomer states are free to top up farming subsidies by another 30 percent from state coffers, but their generosity depends on the state of individual countries’ finances.
Agriculture ministers of 17 EU countries arrived in Brno on Sunday for a three-day informal conference on the future of the bloc’s agriculture policy, held as part of the Czech EU presidency. Among other issues, the ministers will debate the system of direct payments to agriculture producers in individual EU countries. The system currently grants higher subsidies to farmers from the old EU states, which is something the Czech Republic and several other new members of the EU would like to change.
Znojmo beer has been given protected status by the European Commission. The Commission announced in Brussels on Thursday that the beer had been given protected geographical indication status, meaning that nowhere from outside the area can use the name. The application for the special status was made several years ago and continued when the Brno-based brewery Starobrno was bought by multinational brewing giant Heineken. But it is not yet clear if the brewer will relaunch the mark. Around 850 products have so far been awarded geographical protection across Europe.
A Czech jeweller has created a replica of the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, a team of enthusiasts is building a miniaturized model of a town which was razed to the ground to make way for coal mining and, a group of Czechs have held a non-stop reading of the entire Lisbon treaty to prove that it is readable. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarová.
Hundreds of dairy farmers in various parts of the Czech Republic joined farmers in other EU countries, including France, on Wednesday calling for fair milk prices. Across Europe some 25,000 dairy farmers took part. Dairy producers in the Czech Republic, as elsewhere, urged politicians to create better conditions. A drop in milk prices has plagued milk producers for months. The largest group of protestors in the Czech Republic came out in the Vysočany region (Czech-Moravian highlands). Czech producers would like to see a minimal milk price set at around 7 crowns per litre.
Czech wine makers enjoyed a record year for production in 2008. The 2008 production at 820,000 hectolitres, and possibly up to 840,000 hectolitres, is around double the previous year according to the Ministry of Agriculture. It said the increase was in part due to the expansion of domestic vineyards. Whereas 11,236 hectares were under cultivation in 2000, this has now climbed to 17,000 hectares thanks in a large part to state incentives. Czech wine production in 2007 was also hit by frosts which resulted in a lower crop.
The head of the Czech Beer and Malt Association has revealed that more than half of the country’s breweries are interested in using the “Czech Beer” trademark, approved last year by the European Commission. The news was released on Tuesday by the head of the Czech Beer and Malt Association Jan Veselý, who said the trademark would help Czech firms on foreign markets. Basic requirements to acquire the label include meeting set standards of quality, producing domestically and using traditional ingredients and technology. Permission to use the label is provided by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority.
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