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European MPs back ACP countries on sugar issue

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Friday, 21 October 2005

European MPs back ACP countries on sugar issue

Two visiting European parliamentarians have thrown their weight behind African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in light of the European Unions (EU)'s proposed reform of its sugar policy.
This includes slowing down the pace of implementation of a 39 per cent cut for ACP sugar prices over the next three years.British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Glenys Kinnock and German MEP Michael Gahler are in Jamaica as visiting representatives of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and were speaking at a dinner held in their honour by executive chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), Derick Heaven.Mrs. Kinnock is co-president of the assembly together with Member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, Sharon Hay-Webster, who is hosting their visit.

Brutal approach
She said the change in support for ACP sugar was "... an extremely brutal approach by the European Union and not in line with Europe's commitment to building peace and security in the world." She added that the ACP countries concerned should instead be supported by the EU for their democracies, human rights records and support for trade unions. Mrs. Kinnock said compensation of 40 million euros for the ACP countries was of "... no substance and neither does it have at this time any budgetary position." She said the sum was 'ludicrous', noting that Mauritius alone had applied for 65 million euros. She acknowledged that there was a blocking majority in the European Parliament against increased compensation, and her own proposal of 80 million euros was refused.
Mrs. Kinnock charged that ACP countries were being further disadvantaged against the European sugar beet farmers who are to be compensated by 1.542 billion Euros per year, and the European overseas territories Martinique and Guadeloupe are being compensated along European lines. She said these two countries would have an unfair advantage within the Caribbean.
Mr. Gahler told The Gleaner he endorsed what Mrs. Kinnock said about compensation as, "The cuts, if implemented with the current level of compensation, will have an extremely negative impact." He said, however, that the trip would strengthen the ACP sugar lobby within the European Parliament.
"I am going to write to all of the agriculture ministers ahead of their November 5 meeting," Mr. Gahler said. "Should they go ahead as planned then nobody can pretend they were not told."
Sugar reform is to be debated in the European Parliament in January.