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Wednesday 19 December 2018

CAP budget in 'line of fire' as reform proposals enter 'crunch time'

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Mary Browne
Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Mary Browne
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The EU is entering 'crunch time' in relation to the EU budget and the future CAP proposal, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has said.

Speaking in Austria, the Commissioner said now is the time for everyone who believes in a sustainable future for our European family farm model to come together and make sure to deliver the right result.

"This will not be an easy task, and everyone in this room has a part to play. Your influence in the political and farming arenas is without parallel.  But influence is a bit like a milking robot on a dairy farm: it doesn't add any value until you switch it on."

He said that he has taken good note of the view outlined in Copa-Cogeca's position paper published in September. "You are firmly opposed to any cuts in the CAP budget, and you call for existing spending levels to be maintained in real terms.

"This is a position I strongly support myself, indeed it is a position I outlined on every possible occasion during the discussions on the next EU budget."

However, he warned that the simple reality is that in budget negotiations framed against unprecedented pressures both outside and inside the EU, the big spending policies will always be first in the line of fire.

"Inside the EU, one of the biggest net contributors to the EU budget is leaving the EU and taking its money with it.

"Outside the EU, we have a very difficult situation of increasing migration numbers and increasing security threats on our borders."

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Commissioner Hogan said that set against these challenges, the Commission's proposal for relatively modest cuts to the CAP can and should be viewed as fair.

"But the most important point to bear in mind is that the final decision does not lie with the Commission. The Member States, working in co-decision with the European Parliament, have full freedom to increase their overall budget contributions with a view to keeping the CAP at its current level."

He also said that he has spoken to ministers in every Member State and there is a willingness in a majority of countries to take this approach.

"Next year important institutional changes will take place at EU level – with European Parliament elections and a new Commission taking office – and time is tight to get the budget and CAP proposals over the line. Your position paper makes it clear that reaching an agreement on the MFF and CAP before the European elections is crucially important for you, and I fully agree."

He said that an agreement is possibly early next year, which he said would provide clarity and predictability for beneficiaries and national administrations.

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