Sweden: ‘Abolish EU farm subsidies’

Europe should abolish all farm subsidies, Sweden's government has said in a submission to the European Commission in Brussels.

Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson announced on Tuesday that he had put forward Sweden’s radical new position to officials drafting the new European agriculture policy, which is due to be launched in 2013.

The idea of completely abolishing farm subsidies, leaving a fully market-oriented farming sector, is controversial.

“We are the first country in the EU to propose this,” Erlandsson told journalists at the Swedish parliament on Tuesday.

Sweden wants export subsidies, intervention subsidies and production subsidies to be phased out completely, leaving only subsidies for environmental protection. The proposed system would closely resemble the system in place in Sweden before the country joined the European Union.

Erlandsson said that producers, consumers and politicians were “for the most part” united on the issue. But those EU countries that do well out of farm subsidies, such as France, Greece and Poland, are likely to oppose any watering down of the system.

“We are currently trying to attract allies, and right now they are found among our neighbours in northern Europe – Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK,” the minister said.

Agriculture subsidies account for 40 percent of the EU budget. Erlandsson did not specify what his proposals would do to this figure.

The reforms would be made possible, Erlandsson said, by high market prices. This was due to increased demand for both energy and food. The price of grain has increased by 35 percent in the past year.

“We expect continued high market prices, and this means that the subsidies can be removed,” he said.