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Brussels/Riga, 13 September 2002

Fischler visits Latvia to "listen, inform, convince"

Franz Fischler, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries will visit Latvia on 16 and 17 September. "During my visit Latvia I intend to do three things: listen, inform, convince. What we need now is not propaganda, but objective information about the enlargement process in Latvia. The Commission has tabled a fair and balanced proposal on agriculture and enlargement. It ensures that EU money is well spent in boosting the necessary restructuring process in Latvia. My visit will serve as an opportunity to discuss the state of play of the enlargement negotiations on agriculture, on the preparations in Latvia and on SAPARD. ", Fischler said.

On Monday, 16 September, Mr Fischler will meet the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Mr Andris Berzins, participate in the meeting of Baltic Agriculture Ministers at Mezotne castle, visit of a farm in the Jelgava region (media are invited to accompany the Commissioner), attend a conference with agrobusiness and farmers' representatives at the Agricultural University in Jelgava

At 5.30 he will hold a joint press conference with Agriculture Minister Mr. Slakteris at the Agricultural University in Jelgava.

On Tuesday, 17 September Mr Fischler will meet the President of the Republic of Latvia, Mrs Vaira Vike-Freiberga and will hold a working breakfast with the Minister of Agriculture Mr. Slakteris and the Saeima European Affairs committee/agricultural sub-committee. He will participate in an "Information Conference on agriculture and enlargement" organised by the European Commission.


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.

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