BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 14:02 GMT
Candidates outraged by EU aid plans
EU flag
The welcome is looking less warm for the EU hopefuls
The European Union has unveiled plans to delay full agricultural aid to its new members in a set of proposals which have been widely condemned by the candidate countries.

Under the plan, put forward by the European Commission, farmers in the 10 countries which plan to join the union would initially get only one quarter of the subsidies paid to their counterparts in existing member states.

They will have to wait a decade before the funding becomes equal.

This offer strikes the right balance between expectations and the budgetary limits of the EU

Gunter Verheugen, enlargement commissioner
The proposals are yet to be debated by all 15 current member states, but candidates have already made clear their unhappiness.

"They are not justifiable," Alar Streimann, Estonia's chief negotiator for EU entry, told BBC News Online.

"Should these remain the final proposals, they would not be acceptable."


Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Malta and Cyprus are all hoping to join the EU club in 2004, while Bulgaria and Romania are to join at a later date.

The limited aid offer is likely to hit hardest in Poland, the largest candidate country with 39 million people, where some 20% of the population work in agriculture.

Inside Europe: How the money is spent

Some parties have threatened to rally the public to vote "No" in a referendum to join the EU if the union fails to put its prospective members on a level playing field.

They argue that Polish farmers will be unable to compete with their highly subsidised western counterparts, who will flood the domestic market with cheaper produce.

Andrzej Lepper, whose Self Defence Party won 10% of the vote in the last general elections said: "If we are not treated as equals, if the European Union tries to exploit us and use us as a dumping ground for its goods, we will start a propaganda war, and make sure that Poles vote 'No' in the referendum."

But EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen insisted the proposals were fair and equitable, and that no-one intended to treat the newcomers as "second-class" citizens.

"This offer strikes the right balance between the expectations of the candidate countries, who will become full members of the European Union, and the budgetary limits of the EU," he said on Wednesday.

And he warned there was little room for bargaining.

But some have been angered by an apparent disparity with previous budgets.

The EC's package lays out a budget of 40.2bn euros for the first three years of enlargement - less than the budget of 42.6bn euros agreed in Berlin in 1999, when the EU foresaw the accession of six countries in 2002.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he hoped to draw up a united front with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to argue their case in Brussels.

"Our goal primarily is not to maximise subsideies but to avoid being placed at a disadvantage," said Peter Gottfried, Hungary's State Secretary for EU integration.

Counting votes

EU governments are aware that the financing of enlargement is a sensitive issue among citizens who are not yet convinced of the benefits of opening the doors wider.

France and Germany are likely to want to tread carefully, as general elections loom in both countries later in the year.

But correspondents say that over the next few months, the EU will have to agree a common position on how to pay for enlargement, one of the EU's most ambitious political and economic projects.

The BBC's Nicholas Walton
"They expected to get quite a lot of money"
The BBC's Tamu Tammerk in Estonia
"The policy is viewed as outright discrimination"
EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fishler
"Polish farmers will have better price guarantees"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | Europe
Poland's farming woes
20 Nov 01 | Europe
France proposes fast EU expansion
23 Nov 01 | Europe
EU issues enlargement warning
13 Nov 01 | Europe
EU hopefuls on track
14 Jun 01 | Europe
The candidate countries
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories