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Silver Lining To EU Economic Crisis

The European Union’s economic crisis will create allies for a British government seeking to streamline the bloc’s farm policy in upcoming reform talks, the new U. K. agriculture minister said May 17.

The economic situation means that reform of the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) must focus on prioritizing limited resources, said Conservative Minister Caroline Spelman, the first member of Britain’s new coalition government to visit Brussels.

“EU finance ministers are having to look hard at available resources, and they together with agriculture ministers will have to manage the reform,” said Spelman.

“I expect quite a lot of allies in looking closely at whether taxpayers are getting value for money. Circumstances will bring allies to our side,” she said.

Britain has long called for a cut in EU farm spending to free up funds for priorities such as competitiveness, but faces opposition from France which has pledged to defend the CAP from deep budget cuts.

Following a meeting with German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner, Spelman described her counterpart as being “preoccupied with the economic situation in Europe.”

But Spelman, who has worked for the U. K. National Farmers’ Union and International Beet Growers’ Confederation, promised to work in the interests of British farmers.

“In the last 13 years the CAP hasn’t been reformed in a way that’s helpful to Britain’s interests,” she said, adding that the food and farming sector will be a vital source of job creation as Britian’s economy emerges from the recession.

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