11 May 2000
Brussels rethinks school milk cuts
By Philip Clarke
PLANS by Brussels to halve spending on subsidised school milk have been set back by a report by the influential European Economic and Social Committee.
Originally, the European Commission wanted to scrap the scheme altogether, depriving over 5 million schoolchildren of half-a-pint of subsidised milk each day.
In the wake of widespread opposition, it then suggested a 50:50 split, with member states picking up half the 96m (56m) a year cost.
But the report from the EESC – an advisory body comprising independent academics and business people – is critical of any co-financing.
To depart from full EU funding would jeopardise school milk schemes in many member states, it says.
“The committee considers that the health, nutritional and social policy objectives of the school milk programme are of outstanding importance, even more so than the aim of boosting sales,” it says.
“Under no circumstances must children become a political football in a fight over the principle of co-financing.”
The report follows an opinion from the European Parliament, calling for a 75:25 split between Brussels and national government expenditure on the scheme.
A final decision will be taken by farm ministers, in time for the start of the new school year on 1 September.
Earlier discussions at their March meeting revealed strong opposition to co-financing.