No reprieve in battle for funding
Irish angle:Under discussion is a draft budget from European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, who is pushing to curtail spending on agriculture. Dublin views this with concern. To appease contributor countries, Mr Van Rompuy wants to cut a €1.03 trillion budget package proposed by the European Commission by €80 billion.
This includes a reduction over six years of about €25 billion in money for the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), or 6.6 per cent. Such a cut would be on top of a plan from the European Commission to reduce CAP spending by 12 per cent.
With Ireland’s farmers and agriculture sector receiving about €1.7 billion a year from Europe, this heralds trouble for the debt-laden Government.
Mr Van Rompuy’s proposal, though it has already been rejected by agriculture-friendly France, makes the danger explicit. ‘‘The EU average level of direct payments in current prices per hectare will be reduced over the financial years 2015-2020,’’ his draft says.
The battle over who gets what is still to be fought, but the proposal threatens a direct hit to the income of Irish farmers. According to the European Commission, the de facto reduction in direct farm payments throughout the EU would be €16.7 billion when €700 million in crisis funding is included. A further €8.3 billion would be cut from funding for rural development, a 20 per cent cut in some countries.
Such figures have triggered alarm among farmers. The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association said they would represent a “national disaster” for Ireland. “Mr Van Rompuy’s proposals . . . were of an order and recklessness that would effectively mean the cessation of CAP as a meaningful component of EU policy and a proven and secure method of providing affordable quality food to the EU’s consumers,” said the ICMSA president John Comer.
While Mr Van Rompuy also wants to trim a further €29.5 billion from the cohesion funding, Ireland is no longer a major beneficiary of that particular scheme.
His draft would conserve EU spending on items such as research and energy infrastructure, areas in which the Government sees potential to draw down a new stream of European funding.