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EU urged to slash agriculture budget

BRUSSELS, Oct 23 – The European Commission wants to see radical cuts in the money spent by the European Union on agriculture, which traditionally takes the lion\’s share of its budget.

In draft proposals due to be published at the end of November, the commission wants a "significant reduction … freeing up spending for new priorities," according to a draft document seen by AFP on Friday.

A permanent reworking of the Common Agricultural Policy has proved highly controversial, with states such as France, seen as a major CAP beneficiary, opposed to moves by others such as Britain to reduce farm spending.

"Further reform and modernisation of agricultural spending is required," the text said.

"For the CAP to be a policy of the future, it needs to send the right signals to its farming community.

"Beneficiaries cannot rely on support conditions remaining unchanged."

Agriculture\’s share of the EU budget has declined over the past two decades from 61 percent in 1988 and should be no more than 32 percent by 2013, when the bloc\’s current seven-year budget planning exercise end.

Spending on the CAP, including direct aid and rural development, amounted to 47 percent of the 116-billion-euro (174-billion-dollar) budget for 2008.

The proposals remain at an early stage, ahead of talks throughout 2011 between member states and in conjunction with the European Parliament.

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The other big loser should the commission get its way would be cohesion funds for underdeveloped regions.

The commission wants to see more spent on employment and sustainable development, clean energy and the fight against global warming and EU relations with the rest of the world

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