Spain's agriculture minister is confident he can get European Union members to adopt a common position on farm aid for prospective European Union members and keep EU enlargement on track. Talks with most of the 12 EU candidates have yet to tackle in earnest the tricky issue of agricultural aid, which could happen during Spain's six-month EU presidency which started on January 1. Some candidates want full access to the EU's 40-billion-euro farm budget up front, but Spain's Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete told the European Parliament yesterday he favoured aid phased in over a five-year transition stage. European farm commissioner Franz Fischler is also said to favour a gradual approach. “We understand the (European) Commission should present its documents in January which will give us five months of presidency ... to find a common position which will serve to negotiate with candidate countries,” Canete told Reuters in an interview yesterday.

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