Sugar reform radar issue for new EU farm chief

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Eu

In her introductory speech before the European Parliament last
week, farm chief designate Mariann Fischer Boel signalled that
sugar reform and defending EU products at WTO talks were among the
key challenges for EU agriculture over the next five years.

In her hearing before taking the reins from Franz Fischler in November as the new EU farm commissioner, Boel told Parliament that she supported the CAP reform and Fischler's 'decoupling' recently pushed through by Brussels.

"I support the decoupling of aid,"​ she answered when asked by MEP Lutz Goepel if the way decoupling of aid is implemented could raise problems of competition between Member States.

"I will personally monitor very closely the implementation of this system of direct payments in each country, to avoid the distortion of competition,"​ she added.

The Commission is planning to make major changes to the market rules on certain products under the reformed CAP, mainly the sugar, wine and fruit and vegetable sectors. Sugar is expected to be the most controversial, since sugar producers are highly dependent on Community funds and market support, under stress from competitive prices of developing countries.

Furthermore, some countries like Brazil, Thailand and India, have appealed to the WTO, saying that EU sugar intervention rules create unfair competition with third countries.

Although many MEPs wanted to know her position on this issue, the Commissioner-designate said she regretted but she could not provide further details on the sugar reform until the WTO panel decides whether or not the current EU rules on the sugar sector are illegal.

"I don't think we should discuss this now, but in any case something must be done to reform the sugar sector, doing nothing is not an option. I cannot give any guarantee today on how this is going to be resolved but I am ready to listen to alternatives,"​ Boel commented to MEP Filip Adwent.

Quizzed by several MEPs about her approach to rural development policy, the Commissioner-designate said it was important to prevent a flight from the land and EU policies were crucial in this regard.

Speaking about the budget for agriculture, Fischer Boel also stressed that she did not think the budgetary framework would be increased and indeed "we will have to fight even to keep this figure"​.

Some MEPs complained of the 'discrimination' suffered by the new Member States as regards the level of aid from the EU. The Commissioner-designate pointed out that, even if some hopes had not been met, the decisions taken at the Copenhagen summit in 2002 had received unanimous support.

At this stage, to start new negotiations would be like 'opening Pandora's box'.

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