Speaking at the AGRA EUROPE Conference in Brussels yesterday [Monday], Franz Fischler, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, stressed he saw last week’s Brussels Summit was a success.

“The deal on financing opens the way for EU enlargement. This is good news for Europe. For European agriculture, the decisions mean the following. We now have a clear idea of the farm budget available in the future. For me, this means a clear mandate to try and guarantee a long-term planning security for our agriculture.

“We now also know that the milk reform and all other upcoming reforms, as well as a part of the direct payments for the new Member States, will have to be financed out of this fixed budget. On the other hand, the means for rural development have not been restricted. On the contrary, the Heads of States have even reminded us of the importance of support for less favoured areas.

“Concerning the timing of the implementation of the Mid-Term Review (MTR), the Commission will fully respect the wishes of the Heads of States. But the fundamental issues and the aims that were addressed in the MTR remain unchanged. We now must put these aims into the perspective of the new financial framework.

“I am convinced that if we do not act quickly, the gap between our ambitious policy objectives and what the CAP delivers to consumers, citizens and farmers would grow further. And sooner or later it would become unsustainable. We must therefore seize the opportunity to build a strong and sustainable Common Agricultural Policy before it is too late”, Fischler said.

Fischler stressed his view that the MTR would also help to promote further the EU’s view on sustainability in an international context. “The new farm income payment would not distort trade and could therefore not be criticised in the WTO. Let me underline that the Brussels Summit last Friday made explicit reference to the international commitments which the EU has undertaken inter alia in the launching of the Doha Development Round. We have obliged ourselves in the WTO to cut trade distorting support, and we will have to stick to this promise”

Fischler underlined that income payments should not encourage environmentally damaging behaviour. “Just as importantly, why should we force farmers to produce a specific product, or indeed at a loss, in order to receive a payment? Surely, it is better to pay them in such a way that they can make their own choices about the best mix of production and costs. For example, I think it makes more sense to encourage beef farmers in marginal areas to focus on quality and environmental services, than on producing up to their premia limits. We also want to ensure that farmers are aware of and meet their statutory obligations leading to better compliance. ”