19 May 2000

Poland stalls talks

EU FARM commissioner, Franz Fischler, blamed Poland this week for stalling talks aimed at liberalising farm trade.

The so-called "double-zero" negotiations, which have been going on with all nine central and eastern European countries as they prepare to join the EU, aim to progressively reduce tariffs and export subsidies between the two blocks.

So far deals have been done with Hungary, the Czech and Slovak republics and Latvia, Dr Fischler told farm ministers meeting in Brussels this week. Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania are also close to agreement. But Slovenia and, more significantly, Poland are still having problems.

Poland, which has the biggest agricultural economy by far in the region, last year increased its tariffs against EU sales of pigmeat, cereals, sugar and rapeseed.

"This is in contradiction to the provisions of the Europe agreement," said Dr Fischler. "It is clear that liberalisation negotiations cannot be concluded."

While talks towards full EU accession – most likely from 2005 – could now continue with the other candidates, Poland would be left behind. "It is up to Poland to make proposals on how it is to back out of this cul-de-sac," said Dr Fischler. &#42