This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 

Speaker Olle Hakelius (1998)

March, 1998
(Source: Studies and Reports. Thirty-first in the series
The Impact of the European Unionís Enlargement on Co-operatives. Papers presented at a seminar held in Prague 3-4 November 1997,  p. 54-57 )

The Swedish experience
I am very grateful for being invited to participate  in this very important ICA Seminar here in Prague. It is very useful to be given the possibility of widening our know-ledge and under-standing of the realities and values that persist throughout Europe.

As you are here in representation of the co-operative movements of countries that have applied for membership of EU, I see it as my role to offer some opinions on agricultural and rural policy, as well as on what can be expected by  agricultural co-operatives on becoming members of EU.

Being Swedish, I can, perhaps, give some opinions of EU from a country that has only been a member  since 1995. The enlargement of EU to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC) is definitely a historical opportunity, which should not be missed,  for our generation to form a Europe of peace and long-term dynamic economic development.  However, this does present an enormous challenge for both present  and future member countries to meet the demands for a successful enlargement.

In previous discussions the cost of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been over-emphasized as being one of the big obstacles for the enlargement. The cost of CAP is currently 0.6 per cent of the total Gross National Product of the 15 member countries. An enlargement with an unchanged CAP will add an extra 0.12 per cent of GNP. This can hardly be considered to be a stumbling block for enlargement.

However, neither CAP nor EU arestatic. The development of the Union as a whole, as well as of CAP, is continually being discussed and changes implemented.  In 1992 a CAP reform was decided on which still has to be implemented in certain sectors of agriculture. This, together with the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreement in GATT, has meant a series of major changes for the farming and rural population in recent years.

The Santer package, Agenda 2000, for the Intergovernmental Conference, has now been put into the decision-making process. It contains, among other things, proposals for agricultural and rural policy. The outcome is of great importance to both farmers and the whole rural community, including agricultural co-operatives. I do not intend to give any details of this package. Let me only say that the package contains suggestions that bring agricultural and general rural policies closer together.

What I want to highlight is the role of organisations, such as COGECA or ICA Europe, in a typical EU decision-making process. When the proposal has been put forward by the Commission it will  be discussed within the Parliament, ECOSOC and by the Council of Ministers. During that process the Commission, as well as members of Parliament and ECOSOC, will have formal and informal meetings with COGECA, and other relevant external bodies, before making the final decision. The positions of COPA/COGECA are important as far as agricultural policy is concerned as we represent the farming community in EU. ICA Europe and COGECA have the same importance as far as co-operative   and market-related policies are concerned.

It is, therefore, very  important for a member country to have independent and representative agricultural organisations,  as they have an important role to play. We have initiated a programme to assist the candidate countries in this process. This has started in conjunction with the PHARE-programme with the creation of a network of contacts. We are also planning to invite representative organisations from the candidate countries to one or two Presidium meetings a year in Brussels, as we found such meetings useful when Sweden was a candidate for entry in EU. The first extended Presidium is planned for 12 February 1998.

It is equally important that the farmers, through their own organisations, are allowed to take an active part in the negotiations for membership. Through an active participation in the presentation of your countriesí  different positions during the negotiations,  you can be assured of achieving results which suit your specific needs. It is also of great importance for your government to gain an in-depth knowledge of all the different areas in which they will have to negotiate. We did this in Sweden and found it very rewarding. This does not mean that we got our government to accept all our demands, but it gave us a very good insight into how EU works.

The divergence between the economic, social and environmental conditions in the EU and the candidate countries is greater than has been the case in any previous enlargement. At the same time EU is moving towards a further important step in the integration, namely the introduction of a single currency. Preparations for enlargement must therefore be thorough. It would be of no help to the candidate countries if their accession were to destabilise the EU itself.

If a new member is to have the possibility of taking full part in, and profiting from, its membership, it must be ensured that it has the institutional, legal and administrative framework necessary to implement EU policy.

As far as the agricultural sector is concerned, this means  that a legal framework should be established to implement the market regulations in the different agricultural sectors, in order to participate in the internal market.

A secure legal framework for commercial dealings should be functioning, so that it is possible to buy and sell land and to use it as a security for mortgage credit and, also, so that there is free formation  pricing in the market due to the elimination of monopolies.

Adoption of EU legislation on environmental and veterinary matters, health and hygiene is, of course, necessary to  meet the demands of the consumers in the EU market. To be able to meet the market demands, market management and monitoring agencies have to be operating to implement and enforce legislation.

Agricultural co-operatives, of the type known in EU, could play an important role in this process.  As owners, the farmers will  get a better understanding of the market demands and thus be able to meet them, if they market their produce through farmer owned enterprises. Only if the farmer-owned businesses have a fair share of the market will  the farmers be guaranteed their fair share of the consumer price.

Certainly there is a big challenge to be met by the candidate countries. Although the responsibility of meeting this challenge rests with the candidate country, the EU-member countries have a big responsibility to assist with knowledge and funding.  This responsibility is not only a government one, it is also the responsibility of organisations like COPA/COGECA, ICA Europe or national farmersí  organisations. We certainly want to fulfill that responsibility.

We, who live in Europe today, have a historically unique possibility to create a new Europe. A Europe that will live in peace and democracy. A Europe that will be economically strong and meet the economical, social and cultural needs of the people. Let us use this possibility for the benefit of future generations.

Olle Hakelius
Vice-President LRF Sweden
Chairman of COPA-COGECA Brussels