Speaking during a visit to Paris yesterday [Wednesday], EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler stressed that the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was not the turnaround of the agricultural policy that some of the farmers fear and some critics hope for.

"It is nothing else than a necessary and logical continuation of the reform process that has started in 1992. We cannot stick to the status quo, changes are urgent. Our proposals will help preserving farm incomes, they will help meet CAP objectives, they will help integrate the acceding countries, they will help adapt the CAP to society's requirements. Postponing everything to 2006 is no solution, because it would lead to a more radical change in agricultural support a couple of years down the line. And this cannot be in the interest of French farmers. I am fully aware that many farmers and farming organisations are not exactly queuing up to welcome these proposals. But I believe it is important to be proactive, as open as possible and aware of the different interests of society. This is the best way to adjust the tools at our disposal so as to give back to farmers and to farming the prestige they enjoyed in the past for their contribution to society", Fischler said.

"I am firmly convinced that our approach is sensible - reconciling agricultural policy with social expectations and clearly establishing the rewards for additional services, thereby justifying budget outlay - these are messages the public will understand. This approach will mean farmers no longer have to present themselves as a charity case - instead, as commercially minded businessmen working for a healthier environment and countryside, they can request their due from the European taxpayer with heads held high. All our proposals, including decoupling and modulation, are in line with the goals set out in Agenda 2000 and the financial envelope agreed in Berlin. Without them, criticism against the CAP as it is, may become unsustainable. Without adjustments, the outcome of the WTO negotiations may force us to cut substantially agricultural expenditure - without compensation to our farmers!" he declared.

For further information on Fischler's speech, click here.