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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
EU farm reform talks fail
By Tim Hirsch
BBC environment correspondent

Franz Fischler (l) with Spanish Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete (r)
Fischler (left was not able to secure a deal
European Union Agriculture Ministers have failed to reach a deal on proposals to reform the system of farm subsidies.

Several days and nights of haggling in Luxembourg ended in deadlock, with France being blamed by officials for blocking progress.

EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler was not able to persuade some members to accept a compromise that would weaken the link between subsidies and production.

The ministers have agreed to meet again next week.

These marathon talks are now running into a third week and even if agreement is eventually reached, it is clear that reforms to the CAP will fall far short of the radical change favoured by the European Commission and countries such as Britain.

Under pressure from governments including the French, Irish and Spanish, concessions have already been made which allow countries to keep some of the subsidies which reward farmers for producing more food - criticised for damaging developing countries and the environment.

But as agreement seemed close, EU officials privately accused the French of suddenly hardening their position and moving backwards in the final hours of the talks.

They suspect direct intervention from President Jacques Chirac, who is strongly opposed to major change in the system which benefits farmers in France more than anywhere else in Europe.

The French will have to change that position if there is any chance of reaching agreement when the talks resume next Wednesday.

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