Dont fear east…

20 July 2001

Dont fear east…

EUROPEAN farmers have little to fear from EU enlargement to the east and could even benefit from the process.

Addressing journalists in Brussels, senior commission executive, Alan Wilkinson, said producers in the former communist countries had just as many fears about a flood of cheap imports as those in the west.

And the evidence to date showed that the trade balance was indeed more in the favour of the current EU of 15. Existing member states also had an advantage in terms of product quality, hygiene and infrastructure.

"It will take several years for the candidate countries to become competitive in a single market," said Mr Wilksinson. "Current EU members have a head start. They have no reason to fear anything."

In the initial stages, it was not the commissions intention to pay direct aid to farmers in the candidate countries – the first of which are expected to join the EU sometime after Jan 1, 2004.

Even though the EUs final negotiating position on agriculture will not be known until the middle of next year, commission executive Rudolf Mogele said the budget had already been fixed to 2006. "Agenda 2000 started with the hypothesis that direct aids would not be paid," he said.

Studies suggested that to do so would cost the EU some k7-8bns (£4.3-4.9bn) a year.

– way in excess of the k3.4bn (£2bn) allowed for rural development spending in these countries under Agenda 2000.

And, even though all ten candidate countries had called for 100% direct aids from the day they joined the EU, Mr Mogele believed this would only discourage them from modernising their food industries.

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