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Agriculture Minister warns Ukraine accession could compromise livelihood of European farmers

Ukraine's accession to the European Union would compromise the livelihood of producers of other member states as "European farmers cannot compete with Ukrainian estates of hundreds of thousands of hectares owned by Western capitalists and which are governed by far less stringent regulations," Hungary's minister of agriculture said in Brussels late on Monday.

Following a meeting of his EU counterparts, Istvan Nagy said it was regrettable that the European Commission had not assessed the impact of Ukraine’s possible EU entry, adding that Ukraine would be on track to receive 30 percent of common agricultural funds and other member states would see a significant reduction in their subsidies.

Nagy said the impacts of a possible Ukraine entry were now “tangible” for farmers in countries neighbouring it since “trade obstacles were removed and Ukraine has become a part of the internal market”. Increased imports from Ukraine had led to difficulties, he said, and “EU members bordering Ukraine couldn’t rely on help from the European Commission.” The EU’s import ban on Ukrainian produce was removed at harvest time, which “indicates total incompetence”, he added.

The minister said the EC was threatening Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia with infringement procedures over their measures introduced in response to the EU’s lifting the import ban, adding that Hungary had received notice of the impending procedure.

Concerning the meeting, Nagy said participants were not in agreement concerning a Commision proposal on new GMO technologies, and he noted the Hungarian government’s position that more time was needed for a proper solution because “nothing must be allowed to jeopardise food security”.

Decisions concerning such technologies, as well as determining what kind of crops should be produced and distributed, were “issues of national sovereignty”, the minister said, adding that “consumers are entitled to know what they buy and what they eat”.

Concerning a proposal on reducing pesticides, Nagy said “mandatory reductions introduced under the lawnmower principle … as well as prohibitions affecting other sensitive areas” would seriously endanger food security in Europe.

The proposal, he said, was “irresponsible and unacceptable”. “It isn’t necessary to make new rules … for goals that can be met under effective regulations and through existing practices,” he said. “Farming should be left to Europe’s farmers.”

Meanwhile, the minister said his counterparts supported a proposal on precisely labeling the origin of honey produce on jars. “It will be easier for buyers to find high quality Hungarian honey produce … and support not only Hungarian bee keepers but the preservation of biodiversity,” Nagy said. Indicating the origin of the product will also help “action against honey of dubious origin imported from third countries,” he added.

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