11 December 2000
No more Euro-cash for BSE battle

By Philip Clarke

EUROPEAN leaders meeting in France have ruled out more money to deal with the BSE crisis which continues to sweep the Continent.

A conclusion that the European Union budget should not exceed the terms of Agenda 2000 was reached at the Nice Summit early on Monday (11 December).

Leaders said the Euro1.2 billion (735m) difference between the planned agricultural budget for 2001 and the absolute ceiling set in Berlin last year should not be increased.

Any measures to support the beef market, to steady farm incomes and boost protein crops should be “in strict compliance with the financial perspective”.

Germany and the UK – two countries which are among the biggest contributors to Brussels coffers – led the calls for financial restraint.

But most of the Euro1.2bn is likely to be needed for the new “purchase for destruction scheme aimed at keeping older cattle out of the human food chain.

The scheme is designed to buy up over-30-month animals from the market, until such time as member states have routine BSE testing up and running.

Brussels estimates that this will cost about Euro140,000/100,000t, enough to buy about 750,000t of beef, equivalent to roughly 2m animals.

European farm commissioner Franz Fischler said the scheme “would just” be financed under the Berlin ceiling – but only if certain conditions were met.

But he indicated that the budget might be exceeded if EU beef consumption drops by more than 10-12%, exports fall and further intervention is needed.