Summary:As MEPs settled down, on February 10 in the afternoon, to hold an in-depth debate on what progress has been achieved with the Agenda 2000 reforms, a few thousand farmers arrived in Strasbourg to demonstrate their hostility to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), changes now being negotiated by EU Farm Ministers. The next day MEPs adopted the European Commission's proposed reform of the wine sector, but subjected it to myriad amendments. They postponed the final vote on this matter until March, owing to the failure of the Parliament to work out a compromise with the Commission.

Nearly 2,000 farmers, flanked with tractors, combine harvesters and one or two forlorn-looking sheep invaded the streets of Strasbourg and areas near to the Parliament headquarters, to protect against the CAP reform. These rural folk, most of whom came from Alsace and Northern Germany, are concerned about a cut in guaranteed prices for milk (-15%), beef/veal (-30%) and cereals (-20%) which, according to the Commission will be offset only partially by grants and premiums. Community resources claim that as a response to the demonstrators' representatives, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Franz Fischler, referred to the freedom still available to change the reform in the final stages of the talks. However, he urged them to make their demands known to their governments, which are responsible for the negotiations.

Still no compromise.

Meanwhile, back in the Parliament, the German Secretary of State for Agriculture chairing the Farm Council, Gunter Verheugen, said, during the Agenda 2000 debate, that the talks had now entered a crucial phase and the...

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