25 December 1998

Agenda 2000 top of Germanys list

GERMANY, which takes over the presidency of the EU next week, will be pulling out the stops to secure political agreement on the Agenda 2000 reforms by the end of March.

Spelling out the plans for the new presidency in Brussels last week, foreign minister Joschka Fischer said the three main elements – the CAP, the EU budget and structural aids – would have to be treated as one package. Agreement was essential if the EU was to move on to the next stage of enlargement to the east. Failure would lead to "an unwelcome halt in EU expansion".

European agriculture would have to become more competitive and environmentally friendly. More of the means made available for the CAP should be earmaked for ecological and employment policy goals.

Budgetary discipline was also key. Expenditure on the CAP should be cut. There should also be a greater emphasis on co-financing of the CAP, with national governments taking more responsibility for funding. This the Germans see as the best way to secure fairer distribution of net contributions to the EU budget.

"We want a fair distribution of the burden," said Mr Fischer. "Extra money is not going to be available." &#42