Britain wants 'radical' reform of EU agriculture policy
A "radical" reform of the EU's farm policy is needed to focus spending on priority areas given the debt crisis affecting the bloc, Britain's new agriculture minister said Monday.
"We can't deny that Europe is out of money, so we have to prioritise spending," Caroline Spelman told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers in the western Spanish city of Merida.
The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides billions of euros in subsidies for food production, currently accounts for around 40 percent of total spending by the bloc and is a major source of tension.
Britain has long called for a cut in EU farm spending to free up funds for other areas such as efforts to boost economic competitiveness but it faces opposition from France, which has pledged to defend the CAP from deep cuts. France is the main beneficiary of CAP subsidies.
Spelman said the two-day gathering in Merida which wraps up on Tuesday was an opportunity for her Britain new coalition government to express "that the UK remains strongly committed to a radical CAP reform.
"There is a real opportunity with the crisis in europe to focus on some of the underlying problems. Everybody is concerned about resource allocation now and the debate is moving in our direction," she added.
Spelman said a consensus already existed within the EU "on the need to lighten the burden of regulation."
She said large British farms have difficulty in meeting the criteria set by various EU farm aid programmes.
"We want a CAP that works better for us. The CAP does not work well for the UK," the minister said.
The gathering in Merida is an opportunity for the 27 EU member states to express their positions regarding reform.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, plans to present its proposals for reform of the CAP in November.
A new CAP is to come into effect on January 1, 2014.
© 2010 AFP