BULGARIA DEFERS TO BRUSSELS ON AGRICULTURE
The members of the Parliamentary Group on European Integration accused the Cabinet of failing to inform them about the course of negotiations with the European Union (EU). The talks are actually being held in the dark, the MPs claimed at the end of their meeting with Meglena Kouneva, Minister of European Affairs, on May 19. The Minister explained she was not authorized to announce the opinions of the various ministries that are holding the negotiations. She justified herself with the regulations of the negotiation process, adopted by the previous government.Moreover, Minister Kouneva had to respond to accusations that the negotiators had abandoned their positions on the Agriculture Chapter. According to the Brussels project, from 2007 on Bulgarian agricultural producers will be paid direct subsidies to produce 4,752 tons of sugar and 979,000 tons of milk, as well as up to 26.25 million dka of grain and oil-bearing plants on condition that the grain payments will be made for an yield of 282 kg/dka. The milk quota is twice lower than the 2 million tons requested by Bulgaria. The subsidized grain fields are close to the claims, but the subsidies for sugar production will only refer to sugar obtained from sugar-beet even though the country processes molasses and sugar-cane mainly.According to the UDF member Assen Agov, the quotas are alarmingly low and will make production shrink instead of stimulate it. That's why Meglena Kouneva said that Bulgaria will try to change the quotas using the so called revised clause which allows that they grow by 4% two years after the country joins the EU. The ten new EU members are going to apply a similar scheme, she added.As to the grain food and tobacco fields and the vineyards that will be subsidized, the Bulgarian requirements have been completely satisfied, Ms. Kouneva assured. She also reminded that the European Commission had based its viewpoint on the agricultural production, registered in Bulgaria in the 1999-2001 period, and that the country was trying to negotiate the highest possible amount of EUR431MN in direct payments for the first three years of Bulgaria's membership in the EU.