Many Threats to EU Funds for Agriculture and Rural Areas

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Jill Evans of Plaid Cymru says crucial decisions could be made this year THE European Commission's proposals for a new European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development will be discussed in the European Parliament over the coming months. Following the CAP reform last year, this is now the major focus of policy reform.

It will determine the European funding available for rural areas from 2007 onwards, so the next year will be crucial for Wales as the decisions on the UK's share of the money and shape of the programme are made.

On the whole, the Commission's proposals are to be welcomed if they fulfil the stated aim of simplifying the rules and reducing the bureaucracy.

But we must look at the wider implications for Wales and the effect on important schemes such as Tir Gofal, Tir Cynnal and Tir Mynydd.

The allocation that the UK receives has historically been low. Within the current programme for the old 15 EU member states, it receives just 3.5% of the budget although it has 12% of the agricultural land.

Although it's too simplistic to allocate money on this basis, it does seem to be inconsistent and there are calls for the UK's share to be increased to 10%.

It's then a question of the bargaining skills of the Welsh Assembly Government to get the best deal for Wales.

The money Wales could get has also been cut by the UK rebate negotiated by Thatcher and kept in place by Blair, which First Minister Rhodri Morgan supported only last week in a reply to a question by Plaid Cymru AM Alun Ffred Jones.

In addition to the UK's percentage of allocation, the amount that Wales could receive is threatened by current attempts to cut the EU's budget.

As it stands in the Commission's proposals, 13 billion euros per year will be available for the EAFRD. This is based on an EU budget of 1.24% of the EU's Gross National Income, but the UK Government is leading a campaign to reduce the budget to 1% EU GNI. …