26 January 1996

New members pay the price

DECISIONS by Austria and Finland to join the EU last year have led to agricultural job losses and a significant slump in prices.

Cuts in national financial support have led to calls from both governments for enhanced socio-environmental support for disadvantaged areas.

Wilhelm Molterer, Austrian farm minister, said his farmers were learning to live with CAP legislation. But Economic Monetary Union and a single currency would offset current problems of fluctuating, devaluating currencies.

He supported the decoupling of payments away from production towards environmental support. But quotas should remain.

"If the quota system changed, there would be a grave danger of production switching from smaller farms in disadvantaged areas, such as the South Tyrol, to larger farms in other parts of the EU.

"We must continue to maintain our rights to produce in disadvantaged areas and be paid to protect farm landscape," he said.

One of the reasons for Finlands decision to join the EU was the collapse of its trade with the Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Kalevi Hemilla, Finnish Agriculture Minister, admitted there had been severe problems in its sheepmeat and egg products sectors. Cereal farmers had also faced grave problems because of changes to the timing of payments.

He called for a single currency, saying without it the Finnish mark could be subjected to fluctuations and problems.