28 May 1999

EU applicants want CAP cash

THE six countries negotiating to join the EU are reluctant to accept that that they should not get CAP direct payments immediately.

John Bensted-Smith, a member of farm commissioner, Franz Fischlers, cabinet, told the Farmers Union of Waless annual meeting that most producers in candidate countries would get higher prices anyway as a result of joining the EU.

The EU Commission was arguing for a transition period when compensatory payments were not paid. There were several reasons why that was necessary.

"Paying direct aids to farmers of the new member states immediately on accession would put tremendous extra pressure on the EU budget," said Mr Bensted-Smith. "Channelling important amounts of direct income payments exclusively to one professional group is likely to create considerable social tensions in the rural societies of the new member states."

It was more important to help rural communities overcome their existing structural handicaps through targeted development policies.

The integration of six new members would increase the EUs agriculture area by 25% and the arable area by 30%, so enlargement would increase production potential substantially. If that generated surplus production, the possibilities to subsidise exports were extremely limited.

A European Union of more than 20 countries would also have to deal with new structural problems and complications, such as the privatisation of land and the weakness of transport and distribution services. &#42