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Barroso: ‘Health Check’ could mean farm subsidy cuts

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday launched the Commission’s long-awaited review of the EU budget and looks to be squaring up for a fight with his Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

He told reporters at a press conference:

“This is Day 1 of a no-taboos debate about spending priorities. This is our chance to start with a blank sheet of paper. To look at what the EU will need to spend in the years to come and where that money will come from.”

Barroso said his officials would present a “health check” on the state of the EU’s agricultural subsidies programs in November that will look hard at the justification for the current level of farm subsidy payments provided by the CAP. “For instance, global prices (for farm products) are going up; maybe this is a good reason to have less subsidies,” Barroso said.

Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has so far presented the CAP health check as a largely technical review that would not address core issues such as the level of farm subsidies, which she has always maintained are fixed until 2013. If President Barroso actually does what he says he’ll do, the health check could be much more than a tidying-up exercise.

Update [14 September]:

Commissioner Fischer Boel told an audience in Lithuania earlier today:

I can’t emphasise enough that this is not going to be a fundamental reform.

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