12 December 1997

Publish CAP proposals early, urges minister

By Tony McDougal

FARM minister Jack Cunning-ham this week pressed the EU Commission for an early publication of its detailed CAP reform proposals to enable talks to start early in the New Year, when the UK assumes the presidency of the EU Council.

Meeting EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler in London on Tuesday, Dr Cunningham said he was pleased that the Council of Farm Ministers had decided at its November meeting to press ahead with Agenda 2000.

But he said negotiations could not begin until detailed proposals from the commission – expected in Feb/March – were unveiled.

While pleased that Mr Fischler was looking to move from production support, he believed more should be done to move towards the world market.

MAFF was angry that the commission hoped to maintain milk quotas until 2006 and wanted to see a 30% cut in support, rather than the 10% advocated in the outline CAP reform proposals.

Areas outside the CAP reform package, where Dr Cunningham will focus during the UKs six-month presidency, include reform of the banana regime and moves to outlaw battery cages for laying hens.

Recent bitter trade disputes between the US and EU over preferential banana trading agreements with Afro-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) nations, due to historic colonial ties, needed to be addressed in the light of the forthcoming World Trade Organisation talks in 1999, said MAFF.

And junior farm minister Elliot Morley has repeatedly called for the abolition of battery cages across Europe.

Dr Cunningham promised that the Krebs report into the link between badgers and bovine TB would be published before Christmas, though he said MAFF faced no easy options.

But there was less certainty about a date for the food standards agency White Paper, due to "regrettable" 11th hour delays.