Austria backs France, Germany on EU agricultural reforms

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Austria backs France and Germany on the planned overhaul of Europe's controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Austrian Farming minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said here Monday.

"In spirit, we're toeing the same line but we still have to work out the details," Berlakovich told reporters after a meeting with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire, adding that a working group would be set up to draw up a joint position.

France and Germany are, along with Spain, the CAP's main beneficiaries. In September, they made a joint call for a strong farm budget but opposed the idea of a fixed rate of subsidies as proposed by Poland and backed by other east European states who claim older EU members are picking up too large a slice of the pie.

"The joint Franco-German position is open to all other members," Le Maire said.

"I think Poland will come round to this position," he said, also suggesting Hungary and the Czech Republic would do so too,

Austria is the first EU member state to back Paris and Berlin since the EU Commission unveiled the outlines of the CAP reform last week.

Prior to that, Italy had also said it shared a number of points of view of France and Germany.

Both Paris and Vienna believe the proposals put forward by EU agricultural commissioner Dacian Ciolos could serve as a good basis for future negotiations.

Le Maire and Berlakovich both insisted on the similarities in their respective farming sectors, which are both net contributors to the CAP.

Sources from Le Maire's team said France hopes to secure support for the Franco-German position from as many as 20 member states.

© 2010 AFP

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