E. coli outbreak: The power of the EU farming lobby

A German farmer near Hamburg ploughs  lettuce back into the soil, 4 June Farmers have been ploughing crops back into the soil

So it seems that those European farmers hit by the E. coli outbreak are to get compensation. A package worth £134m has been proposed. Growers of salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers who can demonstrate losses will get aid. If the crisis persists more money may be made available.

There is growing frustration that the source of the outbreak has not been found. The anger of the Spanish - whose cucumbers were wrongly identified as the source of the outbreak - was on display at the European Parliament today.

A delegate waved a cucumber and said: "we need to restore the honour of this vegetable." "Farmers have a right," he went on to say, "to economic compensation."

More of that in a moment. There was criticism of Germany today. The EU Health Commissioner, John Dalli, took a swipe at the Germans over the release of inaccurate information which he said spread "unjustifiable fears".

The information needed to be foolproof. It is a difficult balance. If Germany had held back information which could have saved lives they would also have been fiercely criticised.

The message from the EU today was that the outbreak was "limited" and that there was no reason to take action on a European level. The implication seemed to be that food grown outside Germany was safe.

Now back to the farmers. They will get 30% of the price they normally get from the supermarkets or wholesalers.

Tractor factor

Where will the money come from? There is, apparently, money in the existing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget. All of this is to be voted on next week but it would require a qualified majority against to derail the proposal.

But here is the question which I floated in Luxembourg: why did the farmers need compensation? After all, other industries suffer losses without getting a bail-out. A voice near me said loudly: "It's because they have tractors." They have muscle which they are not afraid to use.

A European official was more diplomatic. It is political, he said. The compensation is to keep them from going out of business. It means fewer food imports. It is a public good. Farmers are a special case.

The CAP accounts for nearly half the EU budget yet only 4% of workers are employed in agriculture. For historical reasons they remain a potent force. Their greatest champions are the French who see the CAP as defending not just farmers but the French way of life. It also reflects food shortages before and after World War II.

But compensation as was seen during the foot and mouth crisis has an unhappy history. They can be victims of disease and outbreaks yet they are a protected sector. And this crisis is a reminder that Europe's farmers have power.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Oh, German officials spread the rumours and now ALL of the EU pays for their mistakes. What do other countries have to do with this? What does the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, etc, have to do with Germany's failures? Let them pay, and more than 30% which can barely cover the expenses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    "You forgot to answer why you raised the subject of the BND."

    If i recall it had something to do with USA extraditing lowly 90 year-old Ukrainian POV John Demjanuk (whom Israeli court exonerated) while being accused by those who protected real mass murderers for decades of harboring/employing Nazi war criminals.

    [many a younger guy at Pullach thinks the same]

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    39 Read for you in the WSJ comment section of the article 'The Economy Is Worse Than You Think'. Raising taxes is the ONLY idea The Marxist-in-Charge can think of. If Obama was ever to have an original idea, it would die of loneliness.

    Not much respect there for Your President, isn't it. I've seen that kind of comments more often.

    You forgot to answer why you raised the subject of the BND.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    39 I know about the latter point: some old-Socialists do that name calling too. Some right wing people seem to have trouble distinguishing social democrats from communists (perhaps I read too many American newspapers and commentators, even on this blog, too often?). I read last year some of the German papers making the noise about the Greek bailout. Bild is not my style, Der Spiegel is better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Not really.

    If you'd read German newspapers you'd fight a pretty good and well documented explanations as who and why and BND was not very eager to chase Nazi criminals.

    And as for neo-Nazias -it's hard not to notice that many neo-Socialists are often calling people on the right - like Marie Le Pen, for example -neo-Nazis or fascists. Check for yourself if you don't believe me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    37 OK, so then why raise the subject of the BND ? Are there currently neo-Nazis in responsible positions in the German Government ? Are they elsewhere in the EU system? Are the neo-Nazis behind the E.coli epidemy ? Or behind the accusations against the Spanish cucumbers ?

    You see, a lot of questions can be raised about you raising a new topic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    "What's new ? You don't like Germans ?"

    Nope: just neo-Nazis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    35 Maybe your Nazi technocrats were not as innocent as you claim. Anyway, on Wikipedia on Eichmann you'll find that the FRG government of the day was scared about people finding out about Globke. After Bundeskansler Adenauer and Erhard came Kiesinger, who got slapped in the face by Beate Klarsfeld, since he was ex-Nazi. "Everybody"
    remembers that too (I do). What's new ? You don't like Germans ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Bait&switch method won't work.

    For using former Nazi technocrats not accused of any crimes had as much to do with a state agency of allegedly de-Nazified Germany protecting internationally wanted mass war criminals for many years as Spanish farmers had with E-coli epidemy in Germany.

    That is - nothing.

    Unless somone desperately wants to change an obviously highly uncomfortable subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    32 As for Eichmann (arrested in 1960, judged in 1961 in a civil court - the Israelis did a proper job then, not a botched one as the US did on Bin Laden) and Mengele (died in 1979, could have been arrested earlier), what have they to do with the farm lobby in the EU ? When the EEC started out, it was an agreed choice of the goverments involved to harmonize agricultural policy. No BND or CIA here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    31 32 Clearly you are nitpicking on some trees without wanting to see the forest. Whether or not the CIA existed only formally in 1947 is immaterial to the fact that the USA recruited a number of Nazis in order to get immediate access to knowledge it would have developed more slowly otherwise (look up on 'operation Paperclip', or the rush to adopt the Me-262 like technology, swept wings included).

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Nice, try, but again no cigar.

    CIA could not have possibly recruited W. von Braun since it didn't even exist yet then.

    [I thought "it is well known" the Agency was created in 1947]

    And btw. what does this have to do with recent revelations about BND?

    As much as Spanish farmers with German-originated E.coli epidemy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Re #30:
    "CIA recruited people with a doubtful record during the cold war. This is well known, anyway (think of your rocket guy, Wernher von Braun)."

    I hate to inform you that CIA couldn't possibly recruit W.v B. since the Agency didn't even exist at the time.

    ["it is well known" that CIA was created in 1947.]

    Again:"Any crypto-Parteigenosse wants to comment" re Eichman and Mengele?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    28 the quote is from:
    and shows that the CIA recruited people with a doubtful record during the cold war. This is well known, anyway (think of your rocket guy, Wernher von Braun).

    You are continuously sneaking in issues off topic with respect to Gavin's contributions, without much imagination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Bluesberry: we sometimes vaccinate ourselves against bugs by exposing ourselves to a weakened form of them. The bugs are now able to "vaccinate" themselves against our immune systems, by being exposed to weaker forms of them in HIV and other immune-compromised patients, it seems, breeding deadly forms of hitherto harmless ones. This really is a head-scratcher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    "Later Gehlen's organization became the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), West Germany's foreign intelligence agency."

    And what since then?

    Any crypto-Parteigenosse wants to comment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    26 Stop trolling. Here a quote about the leading intelligency agency at the time:

    ... had some contact with the West German intelligence organization established by General Reinhard Gehlen, which was initially under the control of the U. S. Army and was taken over in 1949 by the CIA. Later Gehlen's organization became the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), West Germany's foreign intelligence agency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Not only farmers have a powerful lobby in some EU countries.

    How otherwise would you explain that a powerful intelligence agency of a leading powerful EU state did not reval whereabouts of such mass murderers as Eichman and Mengele, although it knew them for decades?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I KNOW most SKIP my comments, but if just one...

    BUT, Europeans call themselves compassionate---to whom ...perpetrators of atrocities ???

    How Proud They Must Feel -- Such Self Respect (in Lord of the Rings ..this is call "Fell" (evil) )

    Enjoy,... these actions must have so much allure :)))

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Also, Euro farmers kill unsuspecting victims and then are compensated. If these American tourists find out about this there will be civil suits in America And Big payouts sought. Reputations will be ruined.


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