Warsaw, 12 September 2002
Fischler in Poland "EU is neither heaven, nor hell - but simply better for Polish farmers"
"We will not allow agriculture to be the stumbling-block in the negotiating process. We are fully committed to the timetable. We can make it in time for the Copenhagen Council on 12 December 2002. Much has been achieved, more has to be done. I appreciate that the agricultural negotiations take place in a very constructive spirit. The co-operation and the quality of information provided has improved considerably. We have to maintain the momentum to pave the way for the timely closure of the negotiations", said EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler during his official visit in Warsaw. The Commissioner called on the Polish government to be realistic and responsible. "It would be a big mistake to nourish false illusions within the Polish farm community. The room of manoeuvre for compromises in the negotiation package is limited. Certain member states are reluctant to pay direct payments at all and the EU budget is tight. I do see some limited flexibility for the setting of quotas and other supply management instruments - but only on the basis of solid arguments.", he stressed. "I would wish that more emphasis in the public debate would be given to our reinforced rural development policy. Together with rural development measures under the Structural Funds an impressive amount of money becomes available to farmers and the rural population in the candidate countries, and Poland will get the biggest piece of the cake. The negotiation package is designed to guarantee an efficient and optimal integration of the farming sector into the CAP."
Fischler underlined that no matter whether Poland joined the European Union or not, there was no way around restructuring and modernisation. "It is not the EU but the economic logic "dictating" the restructuring process, which is key to ensuring that Poland becomes a modern and prosperous economy. Poland is faced with a double task: to help farmers who want to modernise their farms and to support the countryside as a whole and create jobs for those who want to leave agriculture but stay in their region. The big difference with enlargement is that the European Union will support Poland in its efforts with billions of Euros."
"It is time to stress the positive aspects. One should not focus on single points, but see the whole of our enlargement proposal. And this package includes many advantages for Polish farmers. Besides the rural development payments and the phasing in of direct payments, one should not forget that all the market organisations of the common agricultural policy will apply to Poland from the day of accession. This means that for example the intervention system for cereals will immediately apply in Poland.
This will not only bring a price guarantee to Polish farmers, but also more stability to the Polish cereal market. I do not share the argument that Poland should benefit fully from direct payments because the institutional price for wheat for example has been higher in Poland than in the EU.
This high price has been unsustainable. You will understand that it would be difficult for us to "compensate" for a home-made and artificial price situation.", the Commissioner went on.
"Joining the EU is of course not hell, as some prophets of doom and gloom claim, but it is also not heaven. There is one simple truth Polish farmers should be aware of. It is better to be in the EU than staying out. The Commission package will ensure that farmers are better off after accession. What we need now is not propaganda, but objective information to address the concerns and fears of population and to maintain and even reinforce support for EU integration."
Fischler explained that the changes to the CAP proposed in the Mid-Term Review (MTR) reflected the priorities of the candidate countries. "Granting income aid independent from production will make it easier for farmers in Poland to adjust to the market, rather than being tied up by production incentives. New streams of aid will help farmers to meet higher quality and safety standards. The CAP will become simpler and the focus on rural development will increase. I can only warn against the idea of linking the discussions on the MTR to agricultural negotiations. This would be the best way to slow down both the accession negotiations and the discussions on the MTR.", he said.
Referring to the pre-accession programme SAPARD, Fischler welcomed that now the first advance of around € 40 mio has been transferred, out of annually € 171.6 mio of SAPARD funds foreseen for Poland. "I am fully aware that the work done for conferral of management of aid was hard but necessary for the implementation of a sound and efficient management. Despite the delays no money will be lost for Poland. Now it is entirely in the Polish hands to run the programme in a simple and effective way and to guarantee a sufficient absorption of funds available. The experience gained under SAPARD will be extremely useful for an immediate and efficient implementation of the EU's rural development policy after accession.", he concluded.
Négotiations on Fisheries
Regarding the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Mr Fischler said that he was pleased that the negotiations on fisheries had been concluded last June. He encouraged the Polish authorities to make the most of the PHARE(1) initiatives to develop and strengthen Poland's capacity to implement fully the CFP rules from the first day of accession to the EU. SAPARD(2) funds, Mr Fischler said, would help to improve the hygiene and quality standards of Poland's fisheries products. Better conservation of fish stocks and enhanced quality of fisheries products would benefit all concerned, he concluded.
The Commission proposal on agriculture and enlargement
On 30 January 2002, the European Commission set out its strategy for dealing with the EU's enlargement negotiations on agriculture: direct payments to farmers and the level of production quotas for the new member countries once they join the EU in 2004. To ease the problems of transition in rural areas, and to encourage the necessary restructuring of the new member states' agricultural sectors, the Commission proposes to beef up financial support through an enhanced rural development policy.
Given that immediate introduction of 100% direct payments would serve to freeze existing structures and to hamper modernisation, the Commission favours a gradual introduction of direct payments over a transition period of ten years: for 2004, 2005, 2006 direct payments equivalent to 25,30,35%, reaching 100% in 2013. According to the proposal, this aid could also be topped up with national funds. The new member states would however have full and immediate access to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) market measures, such as cereal intervention.
In order to ensure simplicity and to ensure adequate controls from the first day, the Commission has proposed a simplified direct payments system for the first three years, with the option of a prolongation for two more years. The new member states should have the option of granting direct payments in the form of an area payment, de-coupled from production and paid per hectare. The Commission also proposes to determine production quotas for sugar and milk essentially on the basis of average production over the years 1995 to 1999.
More information on the Commission's enlargement proposal is available on the Internet at:
Commission proposals for the CAP mid-term review
On 10 July, the European Commission has tabled a mid-term review (MTR) of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Commission is of the opinion that public expenditure for the farm sector must be better justified. Besides supporting farming incomes, it must yield more in return regarding food quality, the preservation of the environment and animal welfare, landscapes, cultural heritage, or enhancing social balance and equity. This review will free farmers from red tape, encouraging them to produce at high standards for the highest market return, rather than for the sake of the maximum possible subsidy. For European consumers and taxpayers, the review will ensure better value for money.
To achieve those goals, the Commission proposes 1) to cut the link between production and direct payments, 2) to make those payments conditional to environmental, food safety, animal welfare and occupational safety standards, 3) to substantially increase EU support for rural development via a modulation of direct payments with the exemption of small farmers, 4) to introduce a new farm audit system, 5) new rural development measures to boost quality production, food safety, animal welfare and to cover the costs of the farm audit.
As to the market policy, which remains an essential pillar of the CAP, the Commission proposes 1) to bring to a close the process of cereal reforms, notably with a final 5% cut in the intervention price and a new border protection system, 2) a decrease in the additional durum payment accompanied by a new quality premium, 3) a compensated decrease in the rice intervention price and 4) adjustments in the dried fodder, protein crop and nuts sectors. The proposals fully respect the objectives policy direction and financial framework for the CAP set in Agenda 2000.
More information on the MTR is available on the Internet at:
(1) PHARE Programme of Community aid to central and east European countries
(2) SAPARD Special Accession programme for agriculture and rural development