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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
EU farmers slam subsidies 'foul play'
Protester in costume symbolising the EU
Farmers say their living is at stake
Farmers' leaders across the European Union have come out against the reform of agricultural subsidies announced on Wednesday.

They warned of economic hardship and insisted that the European Commission stick to existing agreements ruling out any change to subsidies before 2006.

Among the governments to have commented on the reform, Germany's gave it a broad welcome but warned it had its own special circumstances.

Outside the EU, Australia said it welcomed fairer competition for its farmers in developing world markets.

'Foul play'

Gerd Sonnleitner, president of Germany's Deutscher Bauerverband (DvB) farmers' union, said that the EU agricultural commissioner should stick to the seven-year EU agriculture budget agreed in 1999.

"Franz Fischler has gone well beyond his mandate and we are calling for the commitments made in Berlin to be respected," he told a news conference in Paris.

EU Agricultural Commissioner Franz Fischler
Fischler is accused of a 'breach of faith'
Jean-Michel Lemetayer, head of France's National Federation of Farmers' Unions (FNSEA), told the same news conference that it would be "dangerous" to change the budget.

In Spain, Pedro Barato, head of the 300,000-strong Young Farmers' Association, urged EU farmers to unite in opposition.

"All this reform can bring is unemployment, make consumers insecure and make it impossible to develop a lively and dynamic countryside," he said in Brussels, where he was leading a public protest outside the Commission.

Accusing Mr Fischler of "playing foul with farmers' interests", he predicted that east European states applying to join the EU would reject it.

The head of the Irish Farmers' Association, John Dillon, described the proposed reform as a "breach of faith with farmers by the EU Commission".

Partial welcome

Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh also expressed concern about parts of the reform.

"We're not sure yet whether the money that will be redirected will come to Ireland," he said.

There should not be one-sided disadvantages for certain regions

Renate Kuenast
German agriculture minister

He said his government's priority was to protect all benefits and gains negotiated for Irish farmers under the 1999 Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform.

In Germany, Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast welcomed the environmental aims of the CAP reform but voiced concern for jobs, particularly in the former East Germany with its huge ex-collective farms.

"There should not be one-sided disadvantages for certain regions," she said.

Under the reform, individual subsidies to any one farm must not exceed 300,000 euros ($297,000).

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was in Brussels on Wednesday, said the reform could be good for his country.

"If it results in a reduction in surpluses and as a result we face fewer subsidised exports from the European Union into world markets, that will help Australia," he said.

See also:

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