Coveney to outline Ireland's expectations of EU budget and CAP

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 00:00

Ireland expects to secure agreement on the European Union budget by early February, paving the way for an agreement on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by the end of June, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is expected to tell European agriculture ministers in Brussels today.

The Minister will chair today’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting, the first of Ireland’s presidency.

With Ireland receiving €1.7 billion annually from the policy, securing consensus on the CAP is one of the priorities of Ireland’s presidency of the European Council. Proposals to cut the budget have received a hostile reception from Dublin.

“We are optimistic that we will have agreement on the MFF by early February, and have a conclusive council negotiation position by the end of the March,” said one presidency source. Negotiations would then commence with the European Parliament, also scheduled to vote on the issue in March.

Horse meat issue

While not on the official agenda, the ongoing horse meat scandal is expected to be raised at today’s meeting.

Discussions on the reform of the CAP, which accounts for about 40 per cent of the EU’s annual budget, have been ongoing since 2011.

Last week, the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of amended CAP reform proposals, a significant step in the progress of the legislation through the EU institutions.

Among the reforms proposed by the commission are that 30 per cent of direct payments should be linked to greening measures. It is also proposing a change to the way the EU’s annual single-farm payment is made. Instead of basing it on past production, it is planning to move towards a flat payment per hectare.

Last week, MEPs endorsed proposals to limit direct payments to any one farm at €300,000, and reduce payments to those receiving €250,000-€300,000 by 70 per cent. Payments to those receiving €200,000-€250,000 will be cut by 40 per cent.

Among the amendments secured by the European Parliament committee was that the definition of “active farmers” should be decided by member states and not by the EU.

The reform of the CAP is predicated on agreement between member states on the EU budget. The European Council is hoping to secure agreement in February.

“Our working assumption is that there will be agreement on the MFF . . . Obviously there is a possibility that the MFF will not be agreed. If it isn’t, we’re into a completely difference set of circumstances,” the source said.