Crucial CAP talks continue in Brussels
Coveney confident of reaching agreement
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney
Suzanne Lynch in Brussels
European agriculture ministers are meeting in Brussels today in a bid to reach agreement on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. While discussions are expected to continue into the night, no final decision is expected until tomorrow evening.
The two-day meeting, which is being chaired by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, has been described by the Minister as "crucial". It follows agreement last week by the European Parliament on the deal. The European Council of Agriculture Ministers will now seek to reach a common position on the reform of CAP among member states by tomorrow evening. Negotiations will then commence with the European Parliament on April 11th, with the Irish presidency hoping to reach an overall agreement by the end of June.
Speaking ahead of this morning's meeting, Mr Coveney said he is confident agreement can be reached at the two-day meeting.
"It's up to us as the presidency to get a balance in the middle ground. No country is going to get exactly what it wants from CAP reform. We have 27 member states, all with different perspectives, different agricultural structures, different farm sizes... climates, soil types. As you would expect they have different priorities, some have different red line issues. As the presidency it is our task to try and find a compromise that everybody can live with."
Discussion on the reform of the CAP has been ongoing since 2010, when the European Commission published initial proposals on a new model for the scheme, which represents around 40 per cent of the European Union's budget.
Among the most contentious issues under discussion is the Single Farm Payment, which is moving to a flat payment per hectare system, rather than the current system which calculates payments based on past production. Farming representatives argue that the new system will reward inactive farmers. The new proposals also include new environmentally-friendly measures, as well as greater transparency around the distribution of direct payments.
Representatives of the Irish Farmers Association and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association are in Brussels for the talks. IFA president John Byran described the proposals as "very damaging for Irish agriculture."
"As the proposals stand, 80,000 farmers would lose over €250 million from their Single Farm Payment. This will result in income losses of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent for tens of thousands of farm families totally undermining their viability."
ICMSA President, John Comer, said the primary objective of Mr Coveney, who is responsible for attaining agreement between member states because of the Irish Presidency of the European Council, should be to ensure that Ireland receives the "maximum flexibility" to address its own unique situation. "Every other Member State acts in its own interest and we're entitled to expect that, on this occasion, that our Government does exactly the same, " he said.