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European Press Review: Half a Pint of Farm Reforms is Better than None

After a marathon round of negotiations and on-again off-again deals, the European Union on Thursday finally agreed to a reform of its Common Agricultural Policy. European newspapers took a look at it on Friday.

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The EU's reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is a mountain to some, a molehill to others.

The French are predictably angry about the reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which had guaranteed hefty subsidies for the country’s farmers. The Parisian daily Le Figaro warned that the reforms must stop now. The danger, it said, is that Europe will bow to further pressure from the United States and Asia at the World Trade Organization and call for cutting more subsidies. This would result in the highest betrayal of the Parisian government against French farmers, the paper maintained.

Le Echos from Paris criticized the CAP reforms for another reason. Because every country can adapt the policy to fit its own needs, the paper said, Europe will lose coherence and transparency. At the same time fundamental changes to the policy were inevitable which, it conceded, perhaps explains the resigned reaction from farming unions.

Editorialists for the Dutch paper De Telegraaf in the Hague thought the reforms did not go far enough. Unfortunately, the link between subsidies and production was not entirely scrapped to risk alienating the stubborn mule of the Union – France, the paper commented. It said EU member states can still grant their farmers subsidies through the Common Agricultural Policy or feed them sweeteners from their own budgets.

Berlingske Tidende from the Danish capital Copenhagen was also not impressed with the reforms. European farming remains an industry that receives a third of its income from state coffers, and the tax payers who fund the industry don't even benefit from cost savings, the paper argued.

However, Rome's La Repubblica welcomed the reforms. It described the result of the marathon sitting of negotiations as the most important reform Green Europe has ever experienced. While important changes had already been made to Europe's dairy and grain sectors, Thursday's reforms were much more radical and go to the root of the problem, the paper wrote.

London's The Independent wrote, "What the Common Agricultural Policy needs is not

reform but abolition." The editorial appeared next to a cartoon of French President Chirac eating euro notes from a pig swill with a text bubble that says "let zhem eat fudge." The British daily argued that the losers from Thursday's failure are not only the citizens of the EU, but the poor of the world especially in Africa whose agricultural economies suffer disproportionately from the dumping of European food.

The Guardian said after the watered-down reforms agreed to on Thursday, its unlikely the EU will have the moral authority to persuade the Bush administration to reverse its disastrous policy of raising farm subsidies by over 80 percent over 10 years. Unless developing countries can launch a global initiative that shames politicians into confronting their own plight nothing can be done. Half a pint of reforms is better than none at all, but it will be years before Europe gets another opportunity to move into the 21st century, the paper concluded.

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