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Budapest, 3 April 2003

"The European Union offers Hungary's agriculture five advantages," says Agriculture Commissioner Fischler

Visiting Hungary today, the EU's Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler stressed the enormous importance of the Hungarians being able to decide freely for or against the EU. "The cards are now laid out on the table for Hungary's accession to the EU. It is up to the Hungarian people to consider carefully the pros and cons and then decide freely in the referendum whether Hungary wishes to join. I sincerely hope that on 12 April we will be able to raise a glass of fine Hungarian Palinka which the EU has now expressly protected as a geographical designation - to toast Hungary's 'yes' vote to a Europe of peace, prosperity and solidarity." Dr Fischler said that joining the EU would offer Hungary's farmers and agro-industry five very specific advantages. "All these advantages will occur only if Hungary joins the EU sufficiently prepared. And Hungary still has some homework to do in that regard. It has to change up a gear in its preparations. Joining the EU is not a leisurely stroll. If, by the time of entry, the necessary instruments for processing and monitoring EU agricultural aids are not in place, no money can be paid or we would be forced to claim it back," Dr Fischler warned.

Dr Fischler listed the following five advantages to Hungary from joining the EU:

    Reinforced rural development will provide Hungary's farm sector with a targeted, tailor-made impetus. For 2004-06, the EU will provide Hungary with a total of €850 million. Hungary will thereby receive comparatively more funding from the second pillar of the CAP than the "old" Member States. Thus from the date of joining onwards, a wide range of measures will be available to assist rural areas, including investment aid, environmental measures and programmes to help meet EU standards.

    The second advantage is particularly important to Hungary as a traditional exporting country. Joining the EU will give Hungary's farmers and agro-industry access to the world's largest internal market comprising almost half a billion consumers with strong purchasing power.

    The introduction of the common agricultural policy (CAP) will stabilise Hungarian farmers' income, because EU market measures - such as public intervention at times of crisis - stabilise producer prices. Around €150 million a year will be available to Hungary for such measures.

    The gradual increase in direct payments will also help to ensure a stable income for Hungarian farmers in times of restructuring and modernisation.

    All academic studies show that Hungary's agro-industry will be better off in the EU than outside it. The Commission's latest scientific analyses show that farmers' incomes will rise considerably in all the candidate countries. Compared to 2002, we expect that agricultural incomes in the new Member States would increase by over 40%.

Regarding the agricultural reforms currently under discussion in the EU, Dr Fischler said: "The reform will without doubt have positive effects on Hungary. Decoupled direct payments will make things much simpler for farmers and the authorities in Hungary. The new rural development measures will help with the introduction of food safety standards and quality standards. All in all, our reforms are likely strengthen the competitiveness of agriculture in the ten applicant countries and hence secure its long-term future. Greater market-orientation and less excess production will bring Europe's agricultural markets into balance", Dr Fischler said in conclusion.

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