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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 18:01 GMT
Farmers march against EU offer
Czech farmers' protest
Protesters pelted the Czech agriculture ministry with eggs
Thousands of Czech farmers have demonstrated in Prague against European Union plans to offer only limited farming subsidies to future member countries.


Equality for Czech pigs

Protesters' banner
Protesters pelted the agriculture ministry building with eggs and tomatoes, waving placards denouncing the EU and - in one instance - demanding equality for Czech pigs.

"Good-bye Czech agriculture," "Equality for Czech pigs," read banners at the Prague protest, where farmers from all over the country gathered.

It was the second such demonstration in Prague in a month.

Czech farmers' protest
Farmers want to make sure their livelihood is protected
Correspondents say anger has grown in EU candidate countries as it becomes obvious that membership conditions will be tougher than those offered in previous rounds of enlargement.

In Slovakia, some 300 farmers also marched in the capital, Bratislava, demanding the EU double its offer of farm aid and shorten the phase-in of subsidies from 10 to three years after EU enlargement, now scheduled for May 2004.

"We are not afraid to work hard, nor are we afraid of EU competition. But we cannot work miracles, which is what the EU position asks," said Slovakian farmers' leader Ivan Oravec.

Ten states are holding intense last-minute negotiations with EU officials, with days to go to a crucial summit on enlargement in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in mid-December.


By the time they give us full subsidies, they will have destroyed Czech agriculture

Josef Bartos
Farmer
Support for joining the EU is strong in central Europe, but surveys also show widespread dissatisfaction over the conduct of entry talks, leading governments to fear a voter backlash when membership referendums are held next year.

"I believe they [EU officials] have it well calculated, that by the time they give us full subsidies, they will have destroyed Czech agriculture," said Josef Bartos, a farmer angrily wielding a pitchfork.

The Czech Republic is due to hold a national referendum on joining the EU on 15-16 June next year.

If more than 50% of voters do not agree to validate EU membership, another vote cannot be held for another two years.


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02 Dec 02 | Europe
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