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Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries

"Enlargement and Agriculture A Tailor-made Strategy for the New Member States"

Presentation of the Commission's enlargement proposals

Brussels, 30 January 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will give you six reasons why the Commission's strategy will be good for enlargement.

    The package is balanced. Our proposal ensures that EU-money is well spent in boosting the necessary restructuring process in the new member states. And it ensures that farmers in the candidate countries will be better off:  With our offer to apply a simplified scheme for direct payments, all farmers, whatever their size, would have easy access to direct payments. This will particularly benefit the smallest farmers.  We also want to give those farmers a future, who want to switch from subsistence to market production. To achieve this, the Commission has proposed a specific measure for these farms. Its full application to an average 15 hectare farm would double the aid available to the farmers concerned in 2006 to around 2/3 of the normal aid level. Unlike normal direct aid support, this measure will encourage restructuring.  Larger commercial farms will be able to take advantage of prices increases and improved market opportunities

    Our enhanced rural development package will offer considerable opportunities for farmers in the candidate countries to improve their income situation via compensatory allowances, agri-environmental aids, early retirement measures or the support for investment, marketing and processing, which will ensure the longer-term competitiveness and income of farms.

The package is good for the restructuring process in the candidate countries:

  • Rural development allocations have been reinforced by 50% compared to the normal EU level. For 2004-2006 3.6 billion € from the EU-budget will be available.

  • Rural development programming will be tailor-made for the needs of the candidate countries, particularly as regards producer organisations, or the special measure for semi-subsistence farms.

  • The EU co-funding rate has been raised to 80%, in order to ensure that the new member states can match the EU-funds with national money.

The proposed approach to gradually introduce direct payments will ensure that there will not be a two-speed CAP after this 10-year transitional period. At the same time, the necessary agricultural restructuring in the candidate countries will not be undermined. To be honest. I find it quite short-sighted to stubbornly stare at the percentage-levels of direct payments. More important is that we are offering a financially beef up rural development package, tailor-made for the restructuring needs of the candidate countries.

    The package is also good for the environment in the candidate countries. Agri-environment programmes will have a positive effect, and the "simplified scheme" will reduce pressure for speculative investment in intensive production methods.

    The total financial package fully respects the budgetary ceilings agreed in Berlin in 1999, in spite of being expanded from six to ten countries. Turning the debate on enlargement into a pure "piggy-bank operation" is simply not good enough.

But let's face it: Yes, a larger EU costs money. But if the member states live up to their commitments, the costs are manageable.

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