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Extra info for A European Life: From War to Peace
The main merit of the system is the temporary prestige conferred on the presiding country, particularly the smaller ones who for their term of office have had the task of managing the Community’s affairs and – together with the Commission – representing it internationally. The main drawback is that each country arrives in the post with its own agenda, which it usually does not have time to carry out. And of course, some countries are better at the job than others. This does not necessarily mean that big countries are more efficient than small ones.
The task was to collect as much information as possible and to project future trends. One econometric tool for this, with data showing the age distribution of a population, was the “Markov chain”, which I could use in a simple way to work out year-by-year how many of each age group were likely to remain. Pierre Sinard took time and trouble to explain this and other matters to me. Another very helpful senior member of the Division was Denis Britton, who became Professor of Agricultural Economics at Nottingham University, then at Wye Agricultural College in Kent; in fact, when he retired in 1985 I filled his post there for a year until a more permanent replacement could be made.
Now the major issue was how to accommodate the three new Member States, bearing in mind that their farm structures were significantly different from those of the Six, and on the whole much better. The Danes had a particular objection to a scheme for giving early retirement pensions to farmers: their farmers already benefited from their national pensions system and this measure would actually have put retiring farmers in a better position than people in other sectors. Up to this point, the Commission had generally sought uniform measures across the Community.