SNP MEP On Milk 'Rescue Package'

23 October 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has reacted with irritation to a vote yesterday in Strasbourg of the full Parliament on the EU milk crisis which he says will not solve, but instead make worse the crisis Europe's milk producers are experiencing.

The Parliament backed European Commission proposals to include milk and dairy products in the 'Common Market Organisation' thereby giving hugely increased power to the European Commission to intervene in the milk market, as a condition for an additional 280 million euro to be returned to member state governments ostensibly to assist milk producers through the current downturn, though without any guarantees this will actually be the purpose. The Commission proposal also now replaces the previously agreed Milk Fund, which was in any case due to come into force in January, was designed to directly assist producers and did not involve giving any power to the Commission.

Smith, and the Green European Free Alliance Group, voted against the proposals on the grounds that the European Commission has in fact created the crisis by a combination of misguided or tardy action and inaction in the face of clear data the sector is in crisis. The European Commission is as much to blame for the crisis as anything else and to massively increase its powers in this way is more likely to exacerbate the problems of the sector long term.

Similarly, there are no guarantees over what the 280 million will actually be used for, with many member states having already said they will use the funds for purposes other than direct aid, and attempts by the group to guarantee that the funds would reach farmers were similarly rejected. The vote is all the more illogical given that with the advent of the Lisbon Treaty the Parliament will gain co-decision powers, and the Parliament has already approved a 300 million milk fund which will commence in January 2010 but have none of the strings attached the Commission proposal involved.

Smith said:

"This was blackmail of the worst sort from the Commission, and it is a shame that a number of my colleagues happily caved in for the sake of a quick headline.

"Essentially the proposal was 'give us more power and we'll free up the cash now, even though it is less than you have already allocated to start in two months time' and it is regrettable that so many in the Parliament went for the short term headline rather than the long term sustainability of Europe's dairy sector. As sure as eggs are eggs we'll see this money put to several other uses than supporting farming, the sector will continue to struggle and the Commission having more powers is no guarantee at all that they will use them sensibly. The member state ministers have not even met yet to decide how they will divvy up their booty.

"There is no doubting that Europe's dairy farming is in crisis, but 'we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do this' is a bad logic which we see all too often in EU politics. Unlike the majority of the Parliament, I'm proud that my group took the longer view and rejected these flawed proposals which I truly fear will do little than generate a cheap headline but not actually fix anything at all."