Creed urged to follow French lead in opposing 'drastic' CAP reform

Minister for Agriculture, Food and The Marine, Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Minister for Agriculture, Food and The Marine, Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Sarah Collins

The pushback against the EU's post-2020 budget has begun, with France, Hungary, the Netherlands and even Ireland having a go, although for very different reasons.

For France, the proposed 5pc cut to the Common Agricultural Policy budget takes centre stage, though the government has also criticised a 7pc reduction in regional (or Cohesion) funding.

French agriculture minister Stéphane Travert (pictured right) described the CAP proposal as a "drastic, massive and blind" cut in funding that he said is "unacceptable" to the government.

Irish farmers are urging the Taoiseach and agriculture minister Michael Creed to follow suit, and take a "principled" stand.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said "the French declaration should be the 'red line' on which those Member States committed to the principle and practice of CAP should now rally and signal that they will not be moved".

Cut in funding is 'not realistic'

Mr Creed said he was "extremely disappointed" by the proposal, and that "a cut in funding is simply not a realistic proposition".

But whether it satisfies the Taoiseach - who pledged to up Ireland's contribution to the overall EU budget as long as CAP funding was maintained - remains to be seen.

The Commission estimates that between 16 and 20 governments (including Ireland) have agreed to pay more themselves to offset the budget cuts.

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Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan says Ireland can minimise an estimated 3.9pc cut in direct payments by redistributing money from larger to smaller farms once a new 60,000 euro cap on payments is applied.

But of the 128,000 farms receiving direct payments in 2016, less than 2pc received payments over €50,000 , amounting to well under 10pc of the total spent.

And the government will also need to stump sup an extra €47m euros a year to make up for a fall in rural development co-financing from the EU.

"We have worked out that the vast majority of farmers will see a very small cut, and if member states cooperate, of course they will see no budget cuts at all," Mr Hogan explained.

More cuts to CAP?

But all these calculations are moot unless budget hawks such as the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark (and possibly Finland) back down from their demand for even more cuts.

Dutch premier Mark Rutte was the first to issue a strong critique of the budget proposal - particularly the move to end rebates for richer countries -saying it would leave his nation "paying too high a share of the bill".

And Hungary's strongman prime minister Viktor Orbán threatened to veto the budget, which suggests linking future payments from the regional fund to compliance with EU migrant relocation targets and EU "values" such as judicial independence.

The comments are only the opening salvos in what is set to be a long budget battle, and once made even more complicated by the fact that it's still not clear how much the UK will be paying - if anything - into the budget after it leaves.

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