Schroeder backs French 'no' on cutting subsidies

14th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

14 June 2005, BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday firmly backed France's rejection of calls for cuts to European Union farm subsidies while telling Britain to show "flexibility" over cutting its annual multi-billion euro rebate from Brussels.

14 June 2005

BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday firmly backed France's rejection of calls for cuts to European Union farm subsidies while telling Britain to show "flexibility" over cutting its annual multi-billion euro rebate from Brussels.

Speaking at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the German leader was blunt in his support for French president Jacques Chirac's demand that Paris keep its annual farm subsidy payment worth about EUR 10 billion.

"As far as Germany is concerned, we stick to agreements struck," said Schroeder, who noted that European Union leaders had unanimously agreed on a farm spending deal in 2003 for the period through 2013.

This accord, the Chancellor stressed, had paved the way for last year's EU enlargement in which 10 mainly east European states joined the bloc.

Chirac has bluntly dismissed calls to cut farm spending before 2013.

EU agriculture subsidies gobble up about 40 percent of the bloc's annual budget of EUR 100 billion.

British prime minister Tony Blair, under pressure to give up London's annual EUR 5 billion rebate from the EU, said his government's position was clear on cutting farm subsidies and on not giving up the rebate which dates back to a 1984 accord to compensate for the fact that Britain has relatively few farmers.

"We have to look at fairness and respect in the whole way Europe is financed," said Blair who seemed taken aback by Schroeder's tough stand.

Discussion of the rebate and farm spending will be a crucial part of the agenda when leaders of the 25 EU states meet from Thursday at a Brussels summit in a bid to hammer out the bloc's budget - worth up to EUR 900 billion - for the period 2007 to 2013.

The talks are overshadowed by rejection of a planned EU constitution by French and Dutch voters earlier this month.

DPA

Subject: German news

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