• Short Summary

    While the way seems to be opening up for the entry of Britain, Eire, Norway and Denmark into the European Common Market, opposition in each country is becoming louder.

  • Description

    While the way seems to be opening up for the entry of Britain, Eire, Norway and Denmark into the European Common Market, opposition in each country is becoming louder. The opposition is directed mainly against the inevitable initial rise in prices that membership of the European Common Agricultural Policy will entail.

    But the Common Agricultural Policy is one of the major reasons for setting up the Common Market. It's aim -- basically, to put the standard of living of the farming population of the Six onto the same level as the industrial workers -- is a loyal reflection of the ideals behind the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which established the Common Market.

    The key to the realisation of the policy was seen as increased productivity, in agriculture as in industry; and a vastly enlarged home market would set up the preconditions for this. But the policy formulated to carry out this aim in agriculture, namely the Common Agricultural Policy, has led to some chaos.

    Prices were set at an artificial l high level, in order to increase the income of farmers, and the prices were guaranteed by the Commission of the Common Market. Everything the farmers produced and could not sell, the Commission bought at a prearranged pries. This led to enormous surpluses which the Commission in turn could not sell. At the moment, this is costing the Common Market in the region of 2,500 million dollars a year. Because of the system of payments, the industrial countries foot most of the bill - hence the opposition in Britain.

    This analysis of the aims and effects of the Common Agricultural Policy is the fourth in a series on the Common Market entry negotiations. It shows the poorer farmers throughout the European Community who desperately needed, and still need, much help to establish a reasonable living standard, and the people who have in fact benefited from the CAP - the rich, efficient farmers. The VISNEWS Feature series on the negotiations began on May 17 with Prod. No. 5514/71, dealing with the problems of New Zealand's economic dependence on the British market. The second feature was Prod. No. 5576/71, on the Caribbean sugar growers' dependence on Britain; and the third was Prod. No. 5702/71, on the formation of the Common Market. The next feature will show the abortive attempts to enlarge the market. One more has been added to the series; it will deal with the opposition in the candidate countries to membership of the EEC. The series will end early in June, before a decision on British entry.

    SYNOPSIS: Much of the land of the European Common Market is ideal for farming....and yet many of Europe's farmers live in squalor. The reason for this is the way the lag is used. As here in France, the land is split up into separate small holdings, and have been for generations.

    Small farmers don't have enough money to buy modern machinery to farm their land, and so they continue using the methods of their grandfathers. This farmer has made some progress into the 20th century, but others labour on in time-honoured ways.

    The result of this was that, on average, farm workers earned only two-thirds as much as workers in industry. Many lived in poverty. This was one of the major challenges to the Common Market when it was established in 1957. Unfortunately, there's been little change. The Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Market's weapon to modernise agriculture in Europe met with drawbacks from the start.

    Farmers demonstrated as early as 1960 against low prices for their food, and high costs. The Common Agricultural Policy, managed from Brussels, raised prices and guaranteed to buy at the new level But the policy didn't help the small farmers. They didn't have the means to produce more. The people who did benefit were the rich, efficient farmers, as here in Northern France. They could afford modern machinery, and had the land to use it on. They produced more and more, and brussels bought it all. Unfortunately, Brussels couldn't sell it all. Vast surpluses accumulated throughout the Common Market, especially wheat and dairy produce. By 1969, it was costing 2 1/2 thousand million dollars a year.

    When the foreign Ministers of the six Common Market members met in Brussels in 1969, one of the main questions was this high cost. They were well aware of the weaknesses of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Commission member for Agriculture, Sicco Mansholt of Holland, published his proposed remedy. It stressed structural reform - there should be fewer farms, but they should be much bigger. The farming population of Europe should be halved.

    Farmers all over Europe reacted with fury to these suggestions. Last March 80,000 of them mat in Brussels to protest.

    Sicco Mansholt was the prime target. He had said in effect - either modernise, or leave agriculture. This meant, "leave your homes". This demonstration was timed to coincide with a meeting of the farming Ministers on food prices. What they decided would also decide the futures of many farmers - there are about 9 million farmers in the Community, and they needed more money. Outside, the demonstration developed into a bitter fight between farmers and police. Two people were killed in the battle, the most violent of it kind. The Mansholt plan aimed at rationalising farming in Europe, but Europe's farmers didn't want to be told they were disastrously inefficient....they wanted more money.

    The ministers decided to help the rationalisation of farming, instead of just subsidising surplus production, as Mansholt said. That was the original aim of the Common Agricultural Policy. Now it might be fulfilled.

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