Sarkozy vows 'radical reform' of EU farm subsidies

11th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

RENNES, France, Sept 11, 2007 (AFP) - France plans to present a "radical reform" of European agricultural subsidies when it takes over the presidency of the European Union next year, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday.

RENNES, France, Sept 11, 2007 (AFP) - France plans to present a "radical reform" of European agricultural subsidies when it takes over the presidency of the European Union next year, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday.

Sarkozy said a major overhaul of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was "indispensable to ensure that this policy once again enjoys legitimacy."

"The French presidency of the European Union will prepare a new political framework for our agriculture in Europe, based on fundamental principles," he said in a speech on agriculture delivered in the western city of Rennes.

France, Europe's agricultural powerhouse and the EU's top recipient of farm subsidies, will take over the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU in July next year for a period of six months.

Sarkozy's call for reform of EU farm subsidies marked a major shift from his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who steadfastly opposed changes that would inevitably penalize French farmers.

The European Union this week launches its budget review, but spending on agriculture -- 50 billion euros (69 billion dollars) per year, representing some 40 percent of the EU budget -- is fixed until 2013.

"The CAP as it exists today can no longer respond to the challenges of post-2013," Sarkozy said.

"Everyone knows this, but nobody says it," he said during his speech delivered at a new livestock fair in Rennes.

"I want a new CAP, because I do not want to disappoint farmers who do not want hand-outs, farmers who do not want to live off subsidies and farmers who do not want to be subjected to regulations on their livestocks' hair," he said.

Established in 1962, the CAP subsidized farm products to ensure food self-sufficiency in Europe. It has undergone several waves of reforms, the latest in 2003, reducing the level of support offered to EU farmers.

Turning to global trade talks that have hit a wall over farm subsidies, Sarkozy said that France demanded "community preference" for European products over imported goods.

The new agricultural policy "must be founded on the non-negotiable principle of community preference," said Sarkozy, addressing concerns from farmers that European markets will be flooded with agricultural products from abroad.

The World Trade Organisation talks must be re-launched with "clearer objectives," he said, adding that France "demanded reciprocity" and "community preference."

WTO talks restarted in Geneva on September 3 in a last-ditch effort to save the Doha round aimed at giving developing nations better access for their goods in global markets.

AFP

Subject: French news

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