Thursday, August 26, 2004

Elimination of subsidies would be "utopian"

The Agriculture Commissioner designate, Mariann Fischer Boel has discarded suggestions that under her stewardship agricultural subsidies would be eliminated, a policy that would have the support of the majority of Danish politicians.

It is not that Ms Fischer Boel thinks there is anything wrong with phasing out subsidies, it is just that, well, the idea is “out of step with reality. It is utopian.” However, she assured the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidend, agriculture’s share of the EU budget will drop from 45 per cent to 36 per cent by 2014.

This is possible, particularly if much of the new member states’ agricultural budget will be renamed as Cohesion Funds, as a result of a sharp drop in income and employment in the area. But it is not precisely reassuring.

Ms Fischer Boel has also reacted robustly to suggestion that there might be a conflict of interests because her husband runs a large farm in Denmark. It would be absurd, she fulminated, if a politician’s husband could not run a business. Indeed, it would be absurd. The point is not that he runs a business but that he receives large subsidies under the CAP provisions. In other word, she is in charge of a sector and a somewhat contentious policy, that benefits her husband and, one must assume, her and the rest of her family, very directly, indeed. The matter becomes somewhat less absurd.

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