21 June 2002

EURO BRIEF

uEU foreign affairs ministers have postponed a decision on whether or not to extend direct payments to farmers in central and eastern Europe when they join the EU until the autumn. Opposition to the idea has come from countries such as Germany and the UK, which are net contributors to the EU budget. But negotiations on other aspects of agriculture, such as quota levels, can now proceed in accordance with the agreed timetable.

uEURO MPs have given their full backing to the EU commissions idea of phasing in direct payments to the candidate countries over 10 years. Meeting in Strasbourg last week they also endorsed the plan for a simplified system of area payments, with national top-ups allowed. They called on member states to be more generous in funding enlargement, saying peace and security were more important than budget balances.

uIRISH farmers are calling for up to k50m (£32m) in emergency aid and increased advanced subsidy payments to help them deal with the exceptionally wet weather. According to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, silage making has hardly started, with feed costs increasing by 20% as a result. The Irish Farmers Association also points to the 300,000t loss of cereal output, worth about k28m (£18m).

uBRUSSELS is proposing that feta cheese can only be produced in certain areas of Greece, respecting strict production specifications. If accepted by farm ministers within three months, the plan would effectively end large-scale production in countries such as Denmark. A battle over the status of feta has raged for eight years, with some member states arguing that it is a generic product, not a regional speciality. &#42