The Commission has backed away from radical plans to reform Europe's perenially troubled wine sector in the face of opposition from member states. The proposals put forward last June offered EU winemakers €2.4 billion over five years as an incentive to dig up their vines and concentrate on producing quality wines.
In particular the vineyard removal scheme will be much less extensive than originally proposed. The target for grubbing up vines, originally set at 400,000 of the current 3.4 million hectares, looks set to be cut in half. In any case, the scheme would continue to be voluntary for producers with no one forced to tear up vines.
All vine-covered land is planned to become eligible for Single Farm Payment to secure the 'Green Box' status of these aids in any future WTO dispue.
The Commission's plans have encountered opposition from some member states, not least Germany who are upset by a plan to ban the use of sugar. German farm minister Horst Seehofer claimed that Germany would lose part of its competitiveness 'if we did without sugar unnecessarily.' A ban on adding sugar would increase the cost of producing wine in Germany by up to 25 per cent. However, Commission officials argue that half of quality German wines are already produced without using sugar.