European Council must reform Agricultural Policy
Brussels, Belgium -Today, at their Council meeting in Brussels, EU Heads of State must take major decisions on enlarging the European Union including the controversial question of agricultural direct payments to the new Member States. WWF calls upon the heads of governments to take this opportunity to reconsider how public policies and tax payer’s money will be used in an enlarged Europe.
In a position paper presented today, WWF says it is now up to the Member States to agree on an agricultural package that safeguards the natural and cultural wealth of Eastern European countries. Extending the current system of direct payments available to Member States to up to ten new countries by 2004 is not the right way to go. Direct payments currently represent the lion's share of CAP spending (de-coupled payments alone represent approximately 50 per cent of total CAP spending), a growing and increasingly illegitimate feature of the Common Agricultural Policy. The question is not how much support in direct payments to give to Candidate Countries, but how to start reducing this support across the board, in both future and present Member States.
"Instead of a ten-year transition period for phasing-in 100 per cent direct aids in the candidate countries, WWF would like to see a five-year transition for phasing-out of such aids in the Member States," concluded Elizabeth Guttenstein, WWF Head of European Agriculture and Rural Development. "The Mid-Term Review of the Common Agricultural Policy offers an excellent opportunity for a step in this direction."
WWF believes it is imperative that the same Common Agricultural Policy applies in both new and old Member States after a maximum transition period of four to five years. Such a policy must address the true needs of rural diversity in environmental, economic and social terms in order to become a “greener” policy. It cannot continue to pour billions of Euro to a small percentage of framers through market interventions and direct income support.
"WWF is convinced that rural development spending has to become the core of a new Agricultural Policy in an enlarged Europe," says Peter Torkler, WWF expert on enlargement and agriculture. "It’s the Member States' turn to take the next step in shifting their budgets from market intervention and direct income support payments towards a strong rural development policy. We need a clear message to the Candidate Countries not to repeat the mistakes of the last forty years, which caused a dramatic loss of wildlife habitats and social erosion in rural areas. What we need is a new policy in an enlarged Union which enriches Europe instead of impoverishing our rural environment.""
For further information:
Agriculture and EU Accession Officer, WWF Germany
Tel.: +49 331 747 31 24, mobile: 0049 151 147 42 446
WWF Head of European Agriculture and Rural Development
Tel.: +32 2 740 0924
Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office
Tel.: +32 2 740 0925, mobile +32 497 258042