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Farm reservations overshadow EU 'conviviality' summit

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Farm reservations overshadow EU 'conviviality' summit


European Union leaders have been studying how to sharpen the 25 member states’ economic teeth, to face increasingly fierce competition because of globalisation. But President Jacques Chirac drew a red line at the summit, referring to closely related but outside business: he said France would block a global trade deal at the WTO in December if it undermines a 2003 EU farm policy reform accord. That could wreck a World Trade Organisation process begun in 1999.

As France feared for its cherished agricultural benefits, social adjustments and spending priorities in an enlarged Union were high up the list for debate, as Prime minister Tony Blair made clear discussion of the bloc’s budget would have to wait for a December summit. He is stressing other points in the meantime, such as urging that more be spent on research and innovation. Chirac agreed. This one-day informal gathering at Hampton Court, near London, was the first summit under the British EU presidency. The leaders cast doubt on a proposal for a multi-billion euro fund to soften the impact of increased global competition on workers. Yet they backed a call by foreign policy chief Javier Solana to spend more towards military crisis intervention. The Luxembourg presidency ended angrily with an impasse over funding, in June. Now, the British say the negotiations on future financing can be wrapped up by the end of this year if the political atmosphere in Europe improves.
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