Chirac 'ready to compromise on all but CAP'

16th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac knows he is going to the Brussels summit in a position of weakness following France's rejection of the EU constitution, and is prepared to make compromises on all but the key issue of farm subsidies, aides said Thursday.

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac knows he is going to the Brussels summit in a position of weakness following France's rejection of the EU constitution, and is prepared to make compromises on all but the key issue of farm subsidies, aides said Thursday.  

The referendum of May 29 "has made France the country with the most responsibility for the current crisis, so we cannot exactly make a triumphant entry ... (Chirac) has no desire to quarrel with anyone or impose his views," the aides said shortly before Chirac's departure.  

The 25 heads of government are meeting in Brussels in a climate of crisis  over the apparent demise of the European constitution and a bitter row between France and Britain over the bloc's future funding.  

Chirac has led calls for an end to an annual EUR 4.6 billion (USD 5.6 billion) rebate paid to Britain from EU coffers, but Prime Minister Tony Blair is adamant there can be no renegotiation that does not also cover the EU's massive farm subsidies - of which France is by far the largest beneficiary.  

In recent days the French president as well as Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin have called for a "reasonable and fair agreement" on the budget in which "everyone plays his part" - which Chirac's aides said was a signal France was willing to compromise.  

However there was one exception: the Common Agricultural Policy, whose funding to 2013 was assured in a deal three years ago, must not be touched. "That is non-negotiable," the aides said.  

On the question of the EU's overall budget, France is currently pushing for a level of one percent of Gross National Product but might be willing to accept a suggestion from the Luxembourg presidency to increase it to 1.056 percent.  

"That would represent an extra EUR 10 billion for France for the period 2007 to 2013, or more than EUR 1.5 billion a year. It is not a negligible amount ... but we don't think we should be fixated on the one percent figure," the aides said.  

On the British rebate - which was won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 - the aides said that a Luxembourg proposal to put a ceiling on the money at roughly its current level "is something we could discuss," even if the idea falls short of French demands.  

After the rejection of the constitution in referendums in France and the Netherlands, Chirac has said the process of ratification should continue in other countries according to the agreed procedure, and the president would make this case again at the summit, the aides said.  

However if there was a clear majority tending towards the British view that the process be put on hold, France would not block it. "France will come round to the collective position expressed by the presidency. As the country that created the problem, we cannot give lessons," the aides said.  

The rejection of the charter means that "under the British presidency (starting on July 1) or during the subsequent one, there will have to be a real reflection" on the future of the EU, the aides said.  

"Naturally there is a crisis, but the history of Europe is a history of crises overcome," they said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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