ECONOMY

Greece frets over new CAP

Greece risks fighting a losing rear-guard battle in an attempt to hold on to its cherished agricultural subsidies at a time when most European Union countries seem to be moving toward a different model of development. An informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Murcia, Spain ended on Tuesday without producing any binding decisions, but the majority of participants agreed that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be geared more toward funding infrastructure than subsidizing production. Speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting, Spanish Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said that the aim of a reformed CAP would be to enhance rural development policies «without dismantling» production subsidies. The repeated health scare incidents, such as «mad cow» disease and the impending entry into the EU of Poland with its huge agricultural sector, have contributed a lot toward the Europeans’ shift of priority from subsidizing production to subsidizing infrastructure projects to improve production. This is something most Greek farmers would rather not hear about, and, knowing the political cost of angering the farmers, the Greek government has chosen to take a similar position. «We are opposed (to shifting subsidies away from production),» Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys told reporters. He supported his argument by saying that landholdings in Greece are small and contrasted them with the 100-hectare orange grove in the area of Murcia which the ministers visited, and which employs a total of 17 people. Nothing, however, prevents similar farm consolidation in major Greek agricultural areas and small property holdings in mountain regions are protected by CAP. It has been several years since the EU decided to turn away from boosting production and it has actually begun imposing penalties. Most of the other EU members are determined to follow the trend, by placing emphasis on production quality, animal welfare, food safety and the environment, as Health Commissioner David Byrne remarked. The Kazarma case