Colonna renews refusal tonegotiate EU farm subsidies

1st July 2005, Comments 0 comments

BUDAPEST, July 1 (AFP) - The French European Union affairs minister, Catherine Colonna, reiterated in Budapest on Friday France's refusal to meet British demands for negotiations on agriculture subsidies to reach accord on an EU budget.

BUDAPEST, July 1 (AFP) - The French European Union affairs minister, Catherine Colonna, reiterated in Budapest on Friday France's refusal to meet British demands for negotiations on agriculture subsidies to reach accord on an EU budget.

Colonna said the French government's priority was to set an EU budget for the 2007-2013, and noted that it had already offered at a failed EU summit two weeks ago in Brussels to increase its annual budget contribution by EUR 1.5 billion for the period.

Speaking to journalists in the Hungarian capital, the French minister also reiterated that France was looking to Britain to make concessions on its budget rebate.

Britain, which has tied negotiations of its budget rebate to a reform of agricultural subsidies, took over the EU presidency on Friday.

"Agriculture is excluded (from the budget talks) because that is a discussion that we just had," Colonna said.

The current Common Agricultural Policy of subsidies to farmers was agreed by EU states -- including Britain -- in 2002 and is valid to 2013.

"The rebate is a key issue," Colonna said on the other hand. "We need to have room to manoeuvre to finance our common policies and enlargement."

France accuses Britain of sabotaging a budget agreement in Brussels, which broke down amid acrimony as French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair rebuffed each other's efforts to take away jealously guarded budget benefits.

Chirac blamed Blair for the summit's collapse, calling him "intransigent" for refusing to give up a EUR 5 billion budget rebate that was undermining financing of the expanded, 25-nation European Union.

Blair for his part expressed frustration with Chirac for rejecting his call for a renegotiation of the CAP, which currently funnels more than EUR 9 billion to French farmers.

Colonna said France's priority remained a seven-year budget for the bloc but said this could only be done if every country showed a willingness to compromise.

"The priority is to have a seven-year budget because we need to be seeing clearly our policies" until 2013, Colonna said.

"But the only way to arrive at a common solution is to show unity and... to concretely show solidarity," she said.

Colonna on Friday met Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, Foreign Minister Ferenc Somogyi, EU Affairs Minister Etele Barath and Economy Minister Janos Koka.

Her trip was part of rival diplomatic offensives on the region by Britain and France in search of allies in the simmering budget row.

British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was in Budapest on Monday.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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