Germany against Blair'splans for farm aid reform

23rd June 2005, Comments 0 comments

23 June 2005, AACHEN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emerged from talks Wednesday evening saying they oppose British Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed changes to E.U. agricultural aid.

23 June 2005

AACHEN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emerged from talks Wednesday evening saying they oppose British Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed changes to E.U. agricultural aid.

The two men also said they believe the beleaguered E.U. draft constitution is still alive.

"We are encouraged that Luxembourg and other nations intend to go ahead with planned referendum votes on the constitution," Schroeder said after the talks in Aachen.

The German parliament has voted to ratify the document, but Germany's president has postponed signing of the ratification bill pending a high court review.

On the issue of Britain's campaign to curb agriculture spending, Barroso said any review of aid to dairy, meat and grain producers should be put off until 2008 or later. Blair has called for a wholesale redrafting of a 2002 agreement on farm subsidies.

"Calling into question an accord that was concluded only three years ago is, in our view, not the right thing to do," Barroso said. "It's a negative track."

About 40 per cent of the annual EUR 105 billion E.U. budget goes for farmers under policies dating back to the E.U.'s founding in the 1950s. France garners a quarter of the farm aid, twice its share of the E.U.'s population.

Britain takes over the E.U.'s six-month rotating presidency in July.

Barroso also called for a "frank discussion" on Turkey, saying Europeans' concerns about Ankara's membership bid could not be ignored.

Assessing the results of last week's failed efforts by E.U. leaders to set a new seven-year financial blueprint for the 25-nation bloc, Barroso said there were no "good or bad Europeans" in the E.U.

But E.U. countries could also not be expected to follow one-size- fits-all economic policies, the Commission chief said.

He said all governments must stop adopting a rigid stance on the budget and show a readiness to compromise. "Member states must not stick to their guns," he underlined.

Failure to clinch a deal would have especially negative repercussions on new E.U. states who need to start preparing for projects to be financed by the bloc, he said.

Barroso said leaders must "seriously discuss" European citizens' fears about E.U. plans to start membership talks with Turkey.

"We need a frank discussion," he said, adding, however, that last year's commitment by E.U. leaders to open entry talks with Ankara must be respected.

The talks would, however, be "open-ended", with no guarantees of Turkish membership at the end of the process, Barroso said.

Barroso made his comments after the European Commission debated the disastrous results of last week's E.U. summit in Brussels.

The meeting broke up in acrimony after the bloc's 25 leaders disagreed on a new budget for the bloc.

DPA

Subject: German news

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