Poland has joined the eleven countries led by Spain who are opposed to the Commission's proposals for reform of the sugar regime. Just four of the opposing countries - Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain - would be enough to block reform under the qualified majority system.
This latest development is causing concern in the Commission and the UK presidency. The WTO has declared the current regime illegal and the current regulation expires next June which would lead to chaos if nothing is put in its place.
The Commission has to think of some way of buying off opposition without rendering the whole reform pointless. The opposing states are calling for smaller price cuts over a longer period with more compensation and it is difficult to see how this can be squared with the WTO judgement or the EU budget.
It might be possible to include the option of partial decoupling for states such as Italy who feel they are worst hit by the price reduction, although it is questionable whether keeping small Italian sugar producers in business is compatible with the spirit of the reform. Certainly national compensation envelopes for sugar producers are still under consideration, but the sweetener would have to be significant.
A further complicating factor is that the opposition countries are suggesting that cuts should be applied initially just to regions with a surplus of production. If one interprets that as countries with B quotas, leading sugar producers would be hit, notably France and Germany where up to 20 per cent of overall production quotas are B quotas.
So this is all about winners and losers rather than a rational reform strategy that would be helpful for the EU as a whole. As June approaches, no doubt some sort of reform, with more side payments, will be devised.