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Monday, 10 December 2018
Members of Parliament's Agriculture Committee gave a cautious response to plans to overhaul the EU sugar market presented by Commissioner Mariann FISCHER BOEL on Wednesday. Drastic price cuts for various products are on the cards as well as transitional measures to restructure the industry, which is being asked to become more sustainable and competitive, in line with the reform of the common agricultural policy.

On prices, Mrs Fischer Boel is proposing a cut of 39% over two years from 2007 for sugar (to €385.5/tonne) and of 42.6% for sugar beet (to €25.05/t). Her predecessor, Franz Fischler, was planning cuts of only 33% and 37%.

The Commission also wants an overall decrease in production, with compensation of 60% of the price cuts. And it envisages setting up a voluntary restructuring plan lasting four years, to be funded through a levy on quota holders. Degressive payments of €730/t in the first year, €625/t in the second, €520/t in the third and €420/t in the fourth will paid to factories to encourage them to close. Part of the funding will also go to beet producers. The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which currently benefit from the EU guaranteed price system, will have a special aid plan with €40 million in funding for 2006.

Commissioner Fischer-Boel defended these cuts, saying there was a need to "work for the long term" and not "take the risk of re-opening the issue" in a few years' time. Any failure to reform would have an impact on the entire European sugar industry, she added, as the market is gradually opened from July 2006 to the least developed countries (LDCs), whose prices are much lower than EU guaranteed prices.

MEPs were wary about the proposals, which will be debated at a public hearing on sugar on 13 July in Brussels. Parliament's rapporteur on the subject, Jean-Claude FRUTEAU (PES, FR), already believes the reform is likely to pose problems to the producer countries and that "measures must be taken to preserve the EU from the triangular trade" (whereby the LDCs would re-sell at EU-guaranteed prices the surpluses of other, cheaper, sugar producing countries). Friedrich-Wilhelm GRAEFE zu BARINGDORF (Greens/EFA, DE) fears that the reform will "sound the death knell of the sugar beet industry" and that it represents a first step towards "total liberalisation of the market", paving the way for "the entire world's sugar to flood into Europe".

22.06.2005 Committee on Agriculture
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Thursday, 23 June 2005
The European Commission today proposed far-reaching reforms to the Common Market Organisation for sugar. The changes will enhance the competitiveness and market-orientation of the European Union sugar sector, guarantee it a viable long-term future and strengthen the EU’s negotiating position in the current round of world trade talks. They will modernise the current system, which has remained largely unchanged for around 40 years. The new system will continue to offer preferential access to Europe’s sugar market for developing countries at an attractive price well above the world market level. African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which traditionally export sugar to the EU will benefit from an assistance programme, also adopted by the Commission today. The Commission reform proposals include a two-step cut totalling 39% in the price for white sugar; compensation to farmers for 60 percent of the price cut through a decoupled payment - which would be linked to the respect of environmental and land management standards and added to the Single Farm Payment; a voluntary restructuring scheme lasting four years to encourage less competitive producers to leave the sector; and the abolition of intervention. The ACP assistance plan will earmark € 40 million for 2006 and pave the way for further assistance. The Commission hopes for a political agreement on the proposals at the Agriculture Council in November.
An assistance scheme for ACP countries

Attention must be given to the needs of developing African, Caribbean and Pacific countries for which Europe has traditionally been a crucial market. Post-reform, Europe will remain an attractive market place for some of the countries which have guaranteed access to the EU market under the Sugar Protocol.

However, the Commission is also proposing an assistance scheme for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which traditionally export sugar to the EU. It recognises that the reform is a major challenge not only for EU beet and sugar producers, but also for many ACP suppliers. In order to respond to the diversity of situations of the different countries, the Commission’s assistance scheme proposes to cover a broad range of social, economic and environmental actions.

Under the Sugar Protocol, eighteen ACP countries export sugar to the EU, and may be affected by price reductions on the EU market. The commitment of the Commission to assist them in the adaptation process was integrated in its Communication of July 2004, and expanded in an “Action Plan” produced in January, as a basis for dialogue with the ACP.

The Commission proposes to start implementing the assistance scheme as soon as 2006, as early investments in these countries will maximise their chances of successful adjustment. Since the complexity of restructuring and diversification processes requires a sustained effort, 2006 assistance should be integrated into an eight year scheme. An initial budget of € 40 million has been earmarked for 2006. Ffurther long term assistance will be secured for the period 2007-2013.

Considering the differences between the ACP countries, a broad range of support options is being offered, to be tailored in each country to the needs identified by the stakeholders, and integrated into a long term, comprehensive, sustainable strategy. The types of assistance have been designed with particular attention to the effectiveness of implementation.
The EEA consolidated its contribution to the European Community's sixth environment action programme in a number of areas in 2004: climate change; nature and biodiversity; environment and health and quality of life; and natural resources and waste. In addition, the EEA developed further its information systems and networks. Other policy areas have been supported through contributions to sustainable development and sectoral integration; support to the European Parliament and meetings of the Council of Ministers; and initiatives in the wider world. The EEA has also provided support to member countries and to the European Commission, both as clients and through partnerships.
Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Around 60 per cent of European citizens believe that the EU should spend more on scientific research, according to the results of two new Eurobarometer reports on the public's perception of science and technology and the ethics that underpin them.

The surveys were conducted face-to-face in people's homes between 3 January and 15 February this year, and covered all 25 EU Member States, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) and three of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).

Generally, the surveys revealed a 'very positive and optimistic perception of what science and technology can actually do for humanity in terms of medical research, improvement of the quality of life, as well as the opportunities for future generations.' Indeed, 87 per cent of respondents said that science and technology have improved their quality of life, while 77 per cent believe that they will continue to do so for future generations.
Less encouraging, however, was the finding that many Europeans consider themselves poorly informed on issues concerning science and technology, and the survey identified a link between a lack of information and a low interest in scientific issues.
Finally, those currently lobbying for a significant increase in EU funding for research will be encouraged to read that 71 per cent of citizens agree that collaborative research at EU level is growing in importance, and that 64 per cent feel that our economy can only become more competitive by developing and applying the most advanced technologies.
As UK and Europe's environmental account plunges into the red, the UK urgently needs to take a new development path that puts more emphasis on the planet's precious resources.

In the run up to the G8 WWF has published a new report, Europe 2005 - The Ecological Footprint, showing that the twenty five members of the European Union have accumulated an environmental deficit of 220 per cent of their biological capacity. This means that Europeans now rely on the resources of the rest of the world to make up their increasing ecological deficit.

Stuart Bond, Sustainable Development Officer for WWF-UK, said: "Economic growth at the expense of depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation simply shifts the problem to other parts of the world. Reducing our pressure on nature is essential for the UK's prosperity and the development of African nations. Unless an environmental agenda goes hand in hand with a development agenda our credibility as an international leader will be in question."
Europe's consumption levels have to be met by importing natural resources, such as wood, metals or fish, from other countries. But, unlike any responsible business that carefully records its spending and income, Europe has so far not kept track of its ecological spending.
The WWF report measures the EU Ecological Footprint, which compares people's use of natural resources with nature's ability to produce them. With 7 per cent of the world population, the EU uses 17 per cent of the world resources supply. Its Ecological Footprint is 2.2 times the area of Europe, a figure that has risen by almost 70 per cent since 1961.
EU countries with the highest demand per person are Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland and France, using between three and four times the world sustainable average. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have the lowest demand, but are still using about twice the average amount of resources available per person.

WWF argues that if the UK wants to be competitive in the short and long term, it is time to build a "smart economy" that decouples economic growth from resource consumption.
Tony Blair must give a higher priority to investments in ecosystems, granting EU funds conditional on the protection of nature and developing certification systems to ensure the sustainability of product manufacturing and resource use.
As energy consumption is a major cause of the UK's Ecological Footprint, moving from a fossil fuel economy to renewable energy economy would be a key way of reducing our environmental deficit. Tony Blair must take Climate Change seriously by hastening our moves to a low carbon economy and by making sure that the environmental agenda goes hand in hand with the development agenda.
Other measures that could be taken include eliminating perverse subsidies that have adverse social, economic and environmental effects and ensuring that development and aid policy is coherent with other policies, particularly environment.
"Time matters in addressing this ecological debt. The longer the G8 leaders ignore the problem the more expensive the investment required to correct it will be, and the greater the risk that critical ecosystems will be eroded beyond the point at which they can easily recover," added Stuart Bond.
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