It is being presented as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.” The European Commission is launching a wide-ranging review of how the EU spends its cash. It has sent a questionnaire to the bloc’s 27 governments and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says there will be no taboos – with even the thorniest of topics up for discussion.
At a news conference, he confirmed that the Common Agricultural Policy would be on the agenda. The UK’s controversial EU budget rebate would also be a talking point, said the Commission head. He added that he had not yet had the chance to talk about this to Gordon Brown, Britain’s new leader.
The EU budget was a key source of friction between Nicolas Sarkozy’s predecessor as French President Jacques Chirac and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Sarkozy yesterday signalled France was open to reform of the EU’s farm policy, when it assumes the bloc’s rotating presidency in 2008.
EU Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite said: “We would like to see European leaders take very seriously budget reform, including CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform. If the French future presidency in 2008 will take it as one of its priorities, we think that we can join forces and do a lot of things for a new and more modern CAP.”
The European Union is often criticised for lavishing too much money on agriculture. The reform is expected to slash farm funds which eat up more than 40 percent of spending. Farm subsidies benefit France more than any other country.