Berlin, 7 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union's top official for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, warned today that EU expansion could be delayed if applicant states from Central Europe do not accept reduced EU subsidies for agriculture. Verheugen said in an interview with German newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that there could be no increase in the amount of money set aside for expansion. He said that if an accord is not reached on that basis, expansion plans will be delayed.
Under the plan, recently presented by the European Commission, farmers in new member states would receive 25 percent of subsidies now received by EU farmers. The payments would be gradually increased to 100 percent over a 10-year period.
In Budapest today, the Polish and Hungarian prime ministers agreed during bilateral talks that the EU's proposed funding plans are unacceptable to them.
The issue will be addressed at a meeting of the Visegrad Four countries later in February. The Visegrad group comprises Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.