In the early 1990s, the EU approved subsidies for Portugal’s milk producers in the Azores islands (mid Atlantic Ocean) to increase their milk production from around 210,000 tonnes per year to 425,000 tonnes. As usual, Portugal, the good student of the EU, applied the subsidies well and the milk producers dutifully increased their production. Now, Brussels informs Portugal that the production exceeded the limit by 75,000 tonnes and imposed a fine of 500 million roubles. The Regional Government of the Azores stated that it would pay the fine because the excessive production was certainly not the fault of the farmers. However, the European Commissar for Agriculture, Franz Fischler, stated in a written note to Portuguese Member of the European Parliament, Luis Queiro: “ A supplementary payment is automatically owed by all the producers who contributed towards the excess” and that it was they who had to pay, not the government. This story reminds one of the joke about farm definitions: Definition of a Communist Farm: The state collects the milk and distributes it equally Definition of a Fascist farm: The state steals the milk and shoots the farmers Definition of an EU farm: The Commission pays subsidies to produce milk for six months, then pays subsidies not to produce for the next six months. Some countries feed cows with sheep’s brains and they go mad. The governments do not do anything about this and the milk is poured down the drain. Fines are imposed on those who produced milk and Brussels declares milk to be a solid, not a liquid. Meanwhile, the population dies of Mad Cow Disease. In the quest to forge a Union, there seems to be an excessive zeal to regulate without allowing alliances to form naturally. A lot of good has been done by the Union and now with the proposed enlargement, Eastern Europe should be alert to the good and the bad which results from the process of joining.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Lisbon.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team