EU farm ministers to discuss CAP with Fischler


The Minister for Agriculture Mr Walsh will join other EU farm ministers in Brussels tomorrow in a meeting with Europe's farm commissioner Franz Fischler about the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Mr Fischler faces a tough ride during the one-day meeting which is expected to be a stormy session, helped by a televised open debate on the reforms beginning at 2.30 p.m. Irish time.

Farming groups are stepping up pressure on the Government to reject the CAP proposals ahead of the meeting.

After a meeting with the Taoiseach and Mr Walsh on Friday the Irish Farmers Association president Mr John Dillon said the IFA had "got a commitment from the Taoiseach that he would defend the Berlin Agenda 2000 agreement which should run to the end of 2006 and he would reject further reform of the CAP at this time."

Mr Fischler's controversial proposals include cutting direct payments in subsidies paid to farmers.

France is expect to lead the opposition, although it will not be alone. It will also have backing from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece as well as Ireland.

Britain, which has long called for a root-and-branch overhaul of the CAP, gave the plans the most positive reception. Germany gave them qualified support, but along with Britain has problems with the €300,000 limit on aid to large farms.

(Additional reporting Reuters)