I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 228 together.
The Government made the submission to the EU Commission on the extension of the disadvantaged areas in November 1993. Due to pressure of work, the Commission Services did not complete its initial examination of the date before the end of 1994. At a meeting in December 1994 between the Department and the Commission, further information and clarification of some aspects of the submission was sought, and this was provided in April 1995.
The Commission Services then raised a number of issues which required additional data to be prepared in mid-1995. They also stated that they had a major difficulty with the interpretation of the stocking density criterion which had been given to the appeals panel. I am pleased that, following a series of difficult negotiations, a resolution of these difficulties is in sight, and I expect the Commission will place an agreed proposal before the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in the very near future. The Council of Agriculture Ministers will take the final decision after the European Parliament has given its advice.
I have had a number of meetings with Commissioner Fischler at which I stressed the urgency of a decision in this matter, and he has assured me of his desire to conclude the extension discussions as soon as possible.