18 MAR 2011
By Andrew Willis
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A majority of EU governments have agreed to a gradual redistribution of farm payments from older to newer member states, but few support the idea of limiting payments to the bloc's wealthiest farmers.
Strong divisions were evident at a meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels on Thursday (17 March), with final conclusions drafted by the Hungarian EU presidency gaining majority rather than unanimous support.
Debate centered around the European Commission's non-legislative communication on reforming the bloc's common agricultural policy (CAP), published last November, with eastern member states pushing for a fairer distribution of direct payments to farmers.
Payments are currently calculated using a 'historical' stocking formula, which sees them range from over €500 per hectare in Greece to less than €100 in Latvia.
Diplomats said Poland and the Baltics states were pushing hard throughout the negotiations for language which called for an "equitable distribution" of payments, rather than the finally-agreed "more equitable distribution".
Poland was reported to have switched sides at the last minute however when text promising a gradual move away from historical payments was inserted into the conclusions, leaving the other eastern holdouts disappointed.
"This is the first time we have France, Germany and Poland onboard on a text on the future for the CAP," French farm minister Bruno Le Maire said after the meeting. "It shows that the division lines are not down to east versus west, but those who support a strong CAP and those who don't."
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