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Jack straw warns eu must expand { July 8 2002 }

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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
EU must expand, Straw warns

Discussions over reform of the Common Agricultural Policy must not delay expansion of the European Union, Jack Straw will insist on Tuesday.
The foreign secretary will restate Britain's call for the EU to speed up CAP reform, arguing that the case for major changes "stands on its own".

He will also warn that the recent electoral success of far-Right extremists on the Continent may tempt some EU leaders to "water down" support for enlarging the EU.

Mr Straw will make the appeal during a speech in the Hungarian capital Budapest.

Hungary is a leading contender among the 10 countries currently set to join the EU in 2004.

'Out-dated institution'

"There have been suggestions that some member states might use discussions over reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and direct payments to delay expansion," Mr Straw will say.

"Let me reassure you that the United Kingdom has no such intention."

He will stress that the CAP "no longer reflects the demands of European citizens, or global economic realities".

"It is a throwback to an era when protectionism and state subsidy, rather than free trade, were the guiding principles of European economic policy."

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy guarantees to pay farmers minimum prices for products like beef, milk and cereals.

Lower prices call

CAP spending has already been reduced from 80% of the European Community budget to less than 50%, according to Mr Straw.

But he will argue: "The CAP continues to frustrate EU-wide efforts to promote environmental protection.

"And by erecting a protectionist barrier against the rest of the world, it acts as a brake on economic and social development in the Third World, particularly Africa.

"Our long term aims are to secure a reduction in the size of the CAP budget, lower prices for consumers, less red tape and a shift from subsidies for production to financial support for environmental development."

The foreign secretary will make his speech ahead of the publication of a range of budget savings, set to be unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday.

'Marathon' task

These will be "the next step in a long-term programme" of reform, Mr Straw will declare.

"I accept that the reform process will be marathon not a sprint.

"We will continue to secure support for our position via negotiation rather than confrontation.

"But our concerns about the CAP do not dilute our support for enlargement.

"The United Kingdom's - and the European Union's - commitment to EU expansion is unwavering.

"Reunification will be the greatest achievement of the current European generation.

"If we allow this opportunity to slip from our grasp it would represent Europe's greatest failure since the Second World War."

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