EU Commissioner for Agriculture: Finland’s temporary 141-Support cannot continue forever
Mariann Fischer Boel
While emotions keep running high in Finland for the continuation of the national 141-Support paid out to farmers in Southern Finland, as well as with regard to the reform of the EU sugar policy, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel has tried to appeal to the sensitivities of the Finnish people through a written statement published in Helsingin Sanomat.
"I may not be able to convince all the Finns that what we are doing is right, but I still want to deliver the arguments on which the Commission’s actions are based, and to present the issues in the right context", Fischer Boel writes. According to Fischer Boel, the Commission’s view is that the agricultural support based on Article 141 of the Finnish Treaty of Accession into the European Union 13 years ago was only meant as a temporary measure for the transition period.
"The objective of the sugar reform, on the other hand, is to ensure the competitiveness of the sugar industry within the European Union. Because of the World Trade Organisation commitments the EU is forced to restrict its export of sugar", the Commissioner continues. "In addition, more and more sugar is imported from the developing countries. We cannot continue as before."
"The reform was agreed on already in November 2005, and at that time Finland voted in favour of it. Now the aim is to further enhance the operativeness of this reform."
"In less competitive areas, incentives are offered to those willing to close down sugar factories, to alter their use, and to retrain their staff. The farmers are offered a choice to diversify their production. For countries that cut their sugar production by more than a half or give it up altogether, additional endorsements are on offer."
"Voluntary withdrawal from sugar production is important in areas that are not likely to survive the imminent price drop. Finland, where the cost of sugar production is among the highest in the EU, is one such area."
"Even though the restructuring is a difficult process, I believe in the long run the treaty will benefit rather than impede Finland", Fischer Boel states.
As far as the 141-Support goes, Fischer Boel is of the opinion that the EU Commission is in fact treating Finland fairly by offering a compromise, by which the support that was originally meant as a temporary measure could be abolished in stages.
"Finland has had 13 years to readjust itself. The continuation of the 141-Support demanded by Finland must not be allowed to distort competition within the Union."
"The present agricultural policy makes it possible to support areas that suffer from difficult natural conditions. I would like to broaden the use of such activities based on the policy on rural development. This might benefit Finland as well."
"We aim for a pragmatic solution, one that everybody could live with", the Commissioner concludes.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen sees Article 141 as the only way that Finland can secure livelihood of its farmers (24.10.2007)
European Commissioner for Agriculture: Finland has enjoyed 13 years of fair treatment (23.10.2007)