News Irish News

Sunday 24 September 2017

Farmers' aid from EU to drop with CAP pay freeze

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Irish farmers could see EU aid payments dwindle as the bloc freezes agricultural spending over the next seven years.

Despite a e50bn increase to the bloc's next seven-year budget, payments under the common agricultural policy will remain at 2013 levels for the following seven-year cycle, with direct aid to farmers capped at e281bn.

Extra cash is being allocated for building projects in Europe's poorer regions and for science and research grants.

The figures for each country will be worked out year by year under individual budgets.

And to compensate for the clampdown, farmers will be able to benefit from a e429m-a-year fund. It has been used to aid ex-Dell, Waterford Crystal and SR Technics workers in Ireland.

An Irish Government spokesperson said the proposals, published late yesterday, would have "important medium to long-term implications for the Union's and for Ireland's economic and sectoral interests".

The changes bring the EU's new seven-year budget to just over e972bn, a 5pc rise that is due to take effect from 2014 and is equivalent to just over 1pc of the bloc's GDP.

The budget allows for an overspend of up to e1.025trillion, while several items -- including a e3.5bn emergency fund for farmers, e2.7bn to fund the international thermonuclear reactor and e30bn in development aid -- have been left off the balance sheet.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso lashed out at countries criticising the spending plan, saying the EU needed money to help poorer regions catch up with their richer neighbours.

"We want to shape the debate in rational, reasonable terms, avoiding prejudices, avoiding Pavlovian reactions to a budget people have not yet read," he told reporters in Brussels late last night.

Mr Barroso has proposed a staff pay freeze.

Around three-quarters of EU money is made up of levies based on the size of a country's economy.

Winners

Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are the big winners from the budget, while Germany, the UK and France make up the bulk of its revenue.

Ireland still gets more back than it pays in, despite its relative wealth. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, the Government received just over e1.8bn -- e1.6bn of which went to farmers -- and paid in around e1.4bn.

Ireland's EU commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said the budget was "an anti-crisis budget, a pro-jobs budget and a budget for tackling our biggest challenges". She is earmarking e4.5bn for the agri-food sector, which she says should help Irish farm exports.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News