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Friday 29 August 2014

Hogan in running for top EU post after Dail exit

John Downing

Published 12/07/2014 | 02:30

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Phil Hogan is in the running for the position of Agriculture Commissioner
Phil Hogan is in the running for the position of Agriculture Commissioner

PHIL Hogan is in the running for the position of Agriculture Commissioner after it was confirmed that he will be leaving the Dail for Europe.

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The prestigious jobs of either EU Trade or Agriculture Commissioner are being sought for the former environment minister, who will take up the €300,000 post in October.

The trade portfolio has huge direct powers and international influence, while the agriculture job brings control of €50bn per year, or 40pc of the EU's annual budget.

Either job would seriously enhance Ireland's political clout in Brussels and the other EU capitals.

Much of Ireland's diplomatic effort will now be directed at the European Parliament, whose members have considerable say and ultimately a veto over specific candidates.

Brussels diplomats last night stressed that it was very early days for names to be firmly affixed to specific jobs.

But some well-placed EU officials said Ireland has a good chance of securing the agriculture portfolio in particular.

The current EU Agriculture Commissioner, Daclan Ciolos of Romania, is keen to continue for another five-year term and Romania, as the EU's seventh largest member, is strongly pushing his case.

"But the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is keen to show change and is resisting efforts by Mr Ciolos and others to stay in their current jobs," one Brussels official told the Irish Independent.

Mr Hogan's name has already been linked with the post and the parliament's agriculture committee has already been lobbied on his behalf.

Spain's former Agriculture Minister, Miguel Arias Canete, has also been linked with the EU agriculture post, but sexist comments he made during the European Parliament elections in May make it very difficult for him to get through a hearing before MEPs.

Mr Hogan, in common with the other nominees to the policy-framing EU Commission, will have to go through a public ratification hearing held by the European Parliament committee, which matches his portfolio.

The 751 MEPs have become increasingly strident at these hearings and generally one or more nominees fail the test.

He told the Irish Independent last night that he will not be taking any Dail or ministerial pension during his five-year EU term of office.

While there is a Commission position for each of the member states, only a fraction of these are 'real jobs' with either direct powers or a reasonable budget.

Ireland last held the EU agriculture portfolio in the years 1989-93, when Ray MacSharry performed with distinction. The EU post will effectively double Mr Hogan's current salary.

The EU Commissioner's yearly salary is currently €250,000, enhanced by an additional 15 pc overseas allowance, bringing it to €288,000, and other allowances, which bring the package to roughly €300,000 per year.

A 45pc EU tax rate and 7pc solidarity levy applies.

By contrast, a ministerial salary is €169,000 per year, and various taxes effectively halve this when it comes to take-home pay.

Mr Hogan relinquished his Cabinet post yesterday and will remain as a backbench TD until he takes up duty in Brussels in late October.

A by-election to replace him as TD in Carlow-Kilkenny is not expected until spring of next year.

Irish Independent

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