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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Press Release
Progress in the work on the new programme for rural development

Date of release : 26-04-2005

Policy area : Agriculture and Fisheries Agriculture and Fisheries

Event : Agriculture and Fisheries Council

European Agriculture Ministers continued their work on rural development during the "Agriculture and Fisheries" Council in Luxembourg on 26 April .

On the basis of a questionnaire circulated by the Luxembourg Presidency, the Member States discussed the notion of "less favored areas" for the CAP in general, and the criteria that will have to define the latter in the framework of the settlement proposal for support in rural development by the European Agricultural Fund.

The discussion, which according to Fernand Boden was "in-depth, interesting and keenly debated", dealt mainly with the Commission’s proposal to no longer consider socio-economic criteria in the definition of less favored areas and to limit this to criteria such as low soil productivity or difficult climatic conditions. Such an interpretation would bring about major changes to the current situation: regions considered as less favored at present would lose this status, while others, not currently having it, could acquire it as a result of the change in the above-mentioned criteria.

Fernand Boden, current chairman of the "Agriculture and Fisheries" Council, concluded that the "delegations have unanimously recognised the importance of the concept of less favored areas, which is an integral part of European agricultural model and therefore of the CAP in general. Everybody agreed that this is an essential concept to have the European agricultural model consolidated, and this across the whole Union."

Fernand Boden pointed out that the simulation drawn up on the basis of the methodology developed by the Commission would result in an eight per cent drop in the total area currently defined as being less favored "but that, as a more important [consequence], there would be quite considerable distortions among Member States […], and even within Member States there would be changes on such a scale as to be politically unacceptable for a large part of the delegations. The Commission noted that the first criteria put forward have to be completed by certain other criteria and that this will not be possible from one day to the next. The majority of the Member States are therefore asking for harmonised objective criteria that do not depend on production methods but on natural conditions," explained the Council chairman.

Fernand Boden announced that the Presidency will integrate the delegations’ remarks in a revised text proposal at the Council’s next meeting in May. With political discussions drawing to a close, the chairman announced that he wanted to deal with the political questions requiring additional clarification over a series of bilateral meetings with the delegations in the context of the next Council.

Asked during the press conference about the discussions also underway on the financing of the CAP, Fernand Boden said that the negotiations were sufficiently advanced to allow for hope of a conclusion of a political agreement during the "Agriculture and Fisheries" Council in May.

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This page was last modified on : 27-04-2005

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