No CAP cash for Kosovo

9 May 2000

No CAP cash for Kosovo

By Philip Clarke

EUROPEAN finance ministers have rebuffed plans by Brussels to dock the agricultural budget by Euro300 million (175m) in each of the next two years, to help rebuild Kosovo.

In their first debate on the subject, finance ministers lined up against the proposal, which was presented by EU budget commissioner Michaele Schreyer.

Commissioner Schreyer wants to spend Euro5.5bn on the Western Balkans over the next six years, including Euro1.1bn for Kosovo and Euro2.3bn for Serbia.

The commission needs Euro1.8bn more than the amount agreed at last years Berlin Summit and is looking to agriculture to pay the first two instalments.

But the ministers voiced particular opposition to the idea of making any financial provision for Serbia while President Milosovic is still in power.

They argued that there was enough money within the existing external relations budget to pay for reconstruction work in Kosovo without the Euro2.3bn.

Ministers also objected to the principle of reallocating money from farming. One UK government said: “If there are any savings, then they should not be reallocated.”

The European farmers group COPA has also questioned the commissions assurance that reallocating money over the next two years will not affect farmers.

The Euro was not guaranteed to stay weak forever, said a spokeswoman, so it could not be assumed the savings in export refunds would necessarily materialise.

However, the commission insisted that the move will not damage farmers because the weak Euro against the Dollar is likely to save Euro500m this year in export subsidies.

The commission proposal will now go to the Finance Councils budget committee for further examination and must also be voted on by the European Parliament.

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