MEPs warn of threat to Cap

Wed, May 2, 2012, 01:00

THE ECONOMIC troubles facing EU member states could affect the funds provided for Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) reform, MEPs yesterday warned the joint committee on communications, natural resources and agriculture.

Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness said she was “very concerned” at how complacent people were about the European farm budget, with many people believing the funds were secure.

Negotiations for the overall EU budget for the period 2014 to 2020 were under way and some member states believed that cutting their contribution to the budget was “ a badge of honour”, she said.

The political climate in Europe was “not exactly warm” at the moment and this posed real dangers for Ireland, Ms McGuinness warned. If there were cuts to the overall EU budget, agriculture would not escape, she said, and rural development funds would be hardest hit.

Her comments were echoed by Independent MEP Marian Harkin and Labour MEP Phil Prendergast, who also addressed the committee.

Department of Agriculture assistant secretary general Aidan O’Driscoll said the Cap budget accounted for about 36 per cent of the overall EU budget, so if member states cut their contributions there would be an obvious threat to the Cap funds.

Committee chairman Andrew Doyle said the warnings about the EU budget were “a stark reminder” of the precarious nature of the negotiations. “Until the EU budget from 2014 to 2020 is agreed, the outcome of the Cap negotiations is uncertain,” he said.

The committee is holding a series of meetings on Cap reform before forwarding its report to the EU institutions. Earlier, Mr O’Driscoll urged farmers to exercise caution in taking actions based on what the final Cap reform agreement might contain.