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Franz Fischler in Latvia: "We need facts, not myths about the effects of EU membership"

European Commission - IP/02/1317   17/09/2002

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/02/1317

Riga, 17 September 2002

Franz Fischler in Latvia: "We need facts, not myths about the effects of EU membership"

"I understand the concerns of Latvian farmers about joining the EU. The more essential it is that they are fully informed that the cost of non enlargement would be high, simply because they would be worse outside the EU. The Commission has set out a fair proposal, which is tailor made to support the restructuring process in Latvia. It is designed to guarantee an efficient and optimal integration of the farming sector into the CAP. As we approach the finishing line of the enlargement negotiations, we need facts, not myths about the effects of Latvia's accession. It is time to stop giving the impression that the whole financing offer of the Commission only consists on 25% direct payments. Let us start looking at the whole package which includes many advantages for Latvian farmers", said EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler during his official visit in Latvia. "Since my last visit to Latvia, your country has made remarkable progress. But there is still work to do. The Latvian farm sector needs to continue and reinforce the efforts. The restructuring of your agriculture and the upgrading of your processing facilities is not something which is forced upon you by the European Union. Latvia is facing these tasks in any case, no matter whether Latvia joins the European Union or not. Your advantage as a future Member of the European Union supports the necessary changes with millions of Euros", he stated.

The Commissioner insisted that the positive effects of Latvia's accession should not be ignored. "What about the fact that the Latvian agricultural sector will have access to a far higher rural development support than EU farmers benefit from? What about the fact that from day one of accession Latvian farmers will benefit from EU intervention, storage systems, trade mechanisms which will stabilise prices and provide more income security to farmers? What about the fact that EU membership means entering a very large and competitive market of 500 million consumers? What about the fact that thanks to our bilateral trade liberalisation Latvia's agricultural exports to the EU have doubled between 2000 and 2001 to € 33 million? All this should not be forgotten in the public debate", he said.

Fischler underlined the Commission's determination to do its utmost that the negotiations could be concluded at the Copenhagen Summit on 12 December. To achieve this, we need realism and pragmatism. We don't need false illusions. 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 limited flexibility for the setting of quotas and other supply management instruments - but only on the basis of solid arguments. I can also only warn against linking the discussions on the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the enlargement negotiations. This would be the best way to slow down both the accession negotiations and the discussions on the future of the CAP", he stressed.

Commenting on the pre-accession programme SAPARD, Fischler said that he was pleased that it has been up and running in Latvia since December 2001. "SAPARD focuses on the development of sustainable agriculture, integrated rural development and improvement of the environment. For 2002 EU funds up to almost € 23 million are allocated. I know that there are concerns about the complexity of the system. But one should not forget that the SAPARD funds are taxpayers' money. We all have to take care that it is properly spent. If money is used incorrectly, it has to be claimed back later. This would clearly be in nobody's interest. In addition, 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 maintained.

Regarding the fisheries negotiations with Latvia Mr Fischler recalled that the fisheries chapter had already been provisionally closed last October. Stressing the need to settle the outstanding issues relating in particular to the setting of fishing opportunities for Latvia, Mr Fischler said that this had to be achieved in accordance with the recommendations of the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission (IBSFC). "Given the positive dialogue between the Commission and the Latvian authorities, I am sure that we will soon be able to settle the outstanding question of quota allocation for Latvia in order to contribute to sustainable fisheries in this region", Mr Fischler concluded.

Background

    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:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/external/enlarge/index_en.htm

    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:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/mtr/index_en.htm


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