9 February 2000
EU payments for new applicants?

THE European Union could extend direct payments to farmers in countries which are currently seeking union membership, reports the Financial Times.

The EU has up to now maintained that farming aid could not be extended to the 12 countries engaged in accession talks.

But Poland, Hungary and other east European states have argued their farmers would oppose accession unless they have access to direct payments.

These are the biggest element of the EUs Common Agricultural Policy following recent reforms.

Gunter Verheugen, enlargement commissioner, confirms in an interview with the newspaper that the issue is being debated in the European parliament.

Franz Fischler, the agricultural commissioner, has already said that some direct payments should be made to applicant countries.

He has also suggested that EU money be concentrated on structural aid to help farms to modernise equipment and practices to be more competitive.