European Union farm chief Franz Fischler headed for Poland last week to “stress the positives” in Warsaw’s negotiations to join the 15 nation EU, the European Commission said last Tuesday. Fischler was set to meet Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski as well members of the country’s parliament during his visit to Warsaw on September 12-13.
A round table discussion was also scheduled with representatives of Polish farmers’ associations and the agri business sector. “With enlargement negotiations approaching the finishing line, my visit will serve as an excellent opportunity to touch base on the state of play of the enlargement negotiations on agriculture and on preparations in Poland,” Fischler said in a statement.
“I think it is time to stress the positives: For the Polish rural sector, being in the EU is far better, and offers a far more stable and secure future, than staying out,” the EU farm chief insisted. Support for Polish membership must be built up among the country’s citizens, Fischler acknowledged.
Agriculture remains one of the thorniest issues in Poland’s drive to join the EU in 2004. In controversial suggestions made earlier this year, Fischler said new EU members from central and eastern Europe would be initially entitled to only 25 percent of the yearly subsidy received by farmers in western Europe.
By 2006 the amount could rise to 35 percent and reach 100 percent in 2013. Poland – like most other EU applicant nations – says it must be treated on a par with current EU farmers. But Poland-EU negotiations on agriculture have been delayed by internal squabbling among member states on reforming Europe’s costly system of farm subsidies. Germany is especially insistent that EU governments must agree on slashing the bloc’s farm budget before opening farm discussions with candidate countries, including Poland.