Chance for Spain to Shine; Brussels Diary
Byline: by Damian Phillips
THE Spanish authorities took over EU presidency from Belgium on 1 January.
The six-month presidency, which rotates between the EU member states is often seen as an opportunity for states to demonstrate their political abilities within the European field.
The Spanish have suggested their period at the helm of the EU will be one of consolidation and their main themes will be driven by what is currently part of further European integration.
They have signalled their three main areas will be the euro, Europe and enlargement.
Enlargement will undoubtedly be another historic but difficult subject. During the Spanish presidency initial discussions on fuunding will begin. Areas, including agriculture - commonly regarded as one of the most difficult to conclude - will provide the Spanish with difficult negotiations, especially as they are also under political pressure to maintain their level of aid through the structural funds.
The presidency will hope to continue discussions on the Inter Governmental Conference which sets new areas of policy in the EU. Questions that are likely to be discussed will be the role of national governments and the merits for a common foreign security policy.
Although the three main areas are not directly linked to agriculture they will have a significant impact.
In the Agricultural and Rural Development Council, the Spanish presidency's top priorities include making advancements in the consolidation of the European agricultural model and also of continuing forward with the reforms of agricultural products already envisioned by the Common Market Organisation (CMO).
The objectives envisioned by the Spanish presidency can be summarised in six fundamental priorities:
Common Market Organisation (CMO) reform One of the priorities is to bring to a close those reforms that are currently under way in the EU that affect the fruit and vegetable sectors, the options strategy aimed at fostering the cultivation of vegetable protein in the EU and the reform of the CMO rice sector.
A report should be drafted on the status of the markets and of grain prices and, if deemed necessary, a regulation passed lowering intervention prices and setting up the corresponding level of direct aid for grains and other herbaceous crops for the 2002/03 and subsequent growing seasons.
During the Spanish presidency, the European Commission has a report pending on the evolution of the oilseed market.
An examination of a European Commission report on the evolution of agricultural spending is foreseen in the 2002 and it will be accompanied, if necessary, by additional proposals. …