Brüssel, 7. December 2005 Press release

Plassnik: “Start of tough negotiations”

07.12.2005

Foreign Minister at conclave on the Financial Perspective

Brussels, 7 December 2005 - "We will fight hard for the issues that concern us - particularly a forward-looking agricultural policy, the border regions and more funding for research and development," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at a conclave of EU foreign ministers on the Financial Perspective.

Plassnik stressed the particular importance of a modern agricultural policy, such as the promotion of rural regions. "The cut in funding proposed by the UK Presidency in this particular area is the wrong approach from both an Austrian and a European point of view. It is unacceptable that the largest cuts should be suggested for the most innovative funding in agriculture of all things. There is a lot at stake: the prospects for our farmers and the people living in rural regions in general, and ultimately the job situation. It was the declared intention of the UK Presidency to present a budget geared more to the future. This must apply not only to the urban space but also to rural regions," continued Plassnik.

The Foreign Minister referred to the contribution made by Austria’s farmers to environmental protection, food safety, tourism, sustainability and disaster reduction and to the high percentage of mountain farmers. "This is part of the way we live in Europe and the most innovative component of the European agricultural policy," explained Plassnik.

"I have therefore made it clear to our European partners that further improvements are most definitely needed in this area," said the Foreign Minister.

Plassnik also criticised the maintenance of the UK rebate, which according to the current proposal would even increase in the future. "An initial attempt at a shift in position by the British can be perceived here, albeit only with a magnifying glass," said Plassnik.

Like many other foreign ministers, Plassnik pointed out that enlargement was a joint concern that would benefit all and that solidarity was also expected on the part of the United Kingdom. "It is a question of fair co-financing of the costs of enlargement," said the Foreign Minister.

Plassnik approved the 10 billion euros earmarked in the British proposal for research and development and also welcomed the general move towards economy.

"Today’s conclave was the starting point for tough but hopefully constructive talks over the next few days. We shall see whether agreement can be reached in the European Council," concluded Plassnik.

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