At a press conference held to mark the start of the `Green Week` agriculture and food fair in Berlin, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Franz Fischler, has firmly stood up for a sustainable and competitive agriculture and against the idea of scrapping the common agricultural policy (CAP). Dr Fischler labelled demands for a renationalisation of the CAP as "pointless and risky". "What would happen if we suddenly had not one common policy but 15 - in future maybe even 25 - competing policies in the EU? The Member States would try to out-subsidise each other and the single market would be at an end. The common agricultural policy has to stay a Community effort." He said that the Commission would be submitting proposals for further improving the CAP towards the middle of 2002. On the topic of enlargement to eastern Europe, Dr Fischler advocated a gradual introduction of direct payments to farmers in the candidate countries in order not to hamper the necessary structural change. "When I call for the gradual introduction of the CAP, I do so not with a view to making savings. Quite the contrary: we are prepared to give greater financial backing to a comprehensive, sustainable rural development policy in the new Member States." He also suggested a simplified method of making direct payments during this transition period so as to avoid unnecessary red tape and expense.