The Presidency's "political initiative, presented by Portugal's Agriculture Minister Luis Capoulas Santos, was designed to open a debate on strengthening rural development policy and promoting specific product quality. This vision of the CAP (partially backed by Greece, Italy and Spain), means scrapping support under common market organisations (CMOs) which continue to account for the bulk of CAP funding. But the CMOs tend to create rifts between sectors, producers and regions, tending to favour those that, even without aid, would be most competitive. The proposed approach would consist of more thorough CAP reform with the aim of reducing the relative share of support through the CMOs and opting instead for rural development measures.Fischler's staged strategy.Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler, indicated that it will be necessary to wait until 2002 before considering bringing forward proposals for an overhaul of the CAP. This date corresponds to the mid-term assessment of the agriculture section of Agenda 2000, covering key sectors (beef, arable crops and dairy products). Mr Fischler did nevertheless point out that in the beef sector, prices currently stand at their highest level for four years. Drawing a cautious line, the Commissioner insisted that reform must be achieved through small steps, adding that the Commission should shortly approve new action programmes on rural development (...). He could see no reason why the Council should strive to invent something entirely new. Rather, Commissioner Fischler concluded that the widest possible unanimity should be found among Member States regarding the pace of implementation.Products of specific quality.The Presidency hailed the merits of a policy of "specific" quality of products that goes far beyond the "minimal" approach covering appearance, size, freshness, taste or packaging. The Presidency's text states that "against a background of growing uncertainty...

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