20th Jan 2019

EU to cut food aid for the poor

  • Some member states are against buying food on the markets to give to the poor (Photo:

Six member states on Thursday (20 October) blocked the renewal of a €500 million EU food aid scheme, cutting it by three quarters from 1 January.

Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden "showed pure selfishness, in a European Union where we need solidarity," said EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos at a press conference after the meeting.

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"If we show solidarity with the banks, we need to show solidarity with the poorest," Polish farm minister Marek Sawicki noted. The Polish EU presidency will not abandon the dossier, he added, and will raise the issue again on Sunday, when EU leaders meet to discuss troubles in the eurozone.

Without the agreement of at least one of the six countries in the "blocking minority", the programme dating back to 1987 will be terminated in two years' time. Under the commission's proposal, the renewed scheme would have been paid for from the EU budget to the tune of €500 million a year - this contribution will now be reduced to €113 million from 1 January.

Currently, most food charities rely on the €480 million budget to supply free meals to 18 million of Europe's poorest people. Last year, the European Federation of Food Banks received 51 percent of its food from the programme.

"It's not about not wanting to help the poor, it's just the principles that are wrong. This is social policy, not agriculture," a diplomat from one opposing country told this website.

When it was introduced, the scheme allowed for food stocks to be tapped so as to give free meals to the most deprived. But as food stocks diminished over the years, most food is now being bought at market prices, with French producers being among the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme. Germany and its allies claim that these are in fact hidden subsidies and are not willing to pay for it.

"We don't want a social policy made at an EU scale," German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner told reporters. "Helping the poor is important of course, but this is a national government's duty. We finance this in Germany with our own budget, and we think we are right to proceed that way."

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