EU cash aids under fire
EU COMMISSION plans to give beef and dairy support cash to national governments to hand out under Agenda 2000 have drawn strong criticism from several member states worried about distortions to competition.
Intense discussions have been conducted in the Brussels-based special committee on agriculture for the past two months and its report will be presented to the farm council next week.
According to SCA insiders, there is much concern about the creation of the so-called "national envelopes", not least from Ireland and Luxembourg. They fear that plans to link these payments to the number of cattle slaughtered in 1995 will discriminate against them. Both countries have large live export businesses.
UK negotiators have been more welcoming of the proposal, which covers half the additional support under Agenda 2000. But, together with the French, they believe more clearly defined rules on exactly how governments can distribute the aid must be drawn up.
Germany and the Netherlands have pressed for 100% of the aid to be put in national envelopes.
There are equally wide divisions on the issue of cross compliance – linking support to environmental programmes. France has called for more payments to be available for a wider range of projects. But the UK has argued for a winding down of income support, with direct environmental conditions attached.
Most member states oppose the proposal to allocate milk quota to mountain areas only.
Farm ministers will debate Agenda 2000 next week and forward their conclusions to the European Council in June.