Hogan under renewed fire on Mercosur deal

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan came under fire from Irish and European MEPs last week on what they called an "Armageddon" Mercosur deal at the first meeting of the new EU Parliament Agri committee last week.

Members of the newly constituted Agriculture Committee voiced harsh criticism of the recently reached EU-Mercosur agreement-in-principle in a debate with Commissioner Hogan.

Potential negative consequences for EU farmers and lack of impact assessment on various agricultural sectors in member states were among the issues raised during the debate.

Commissioner Hogan said in his opening statement that "the [EU-Mercosur] agreement is balanced but also comprehensive and ambitious".

Even though the deal might be "challenging for certain agriculture sectors", the EU Commission "has done its utmost to try and defend interests of agriculture" and it has "secured important opportunities for some sectors in agriculture: wine, spirits, olive oil, dairy, processed foods, to name but a few," he stressed.

However, Independent Midlands North West MEP Luke Ming Flanagan questioned why the Commissioner introduced a €50m fund for the Irish beef sector where reduction of production was an option and weeks later signed a provisional Mercosur deal where 99,000t of beef would be coming from countries where production was "anything but sustainable".

"As you know Commissioner, Ireland exports a quarter of a million of beef to the UK each year, if he (Boris Johnson) goes ahead with a no deal Brexit then our beef farmers face Armageddon," Mr Flanagan said.

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Commissioner Hogan responded that if Mr Flanagan is "against the beef package fair enough, tell your farmers not to take it, they don't have to take it.

"If you're against it you're entitled to your opinion."

Mr Hogan assured MEPs that the EU wasn't sacrificing agriculture for any other sector and that 100pc of beef from Mercosur countries that enters the EU is checked.

"If the UK do leave the EU they are likely to do deals with other countries and if they do a deal with other Mercosur countries they will have to respect the standards we negotiated with Mercosur," he said.

But this did not impress a number of MEPs, who voiced their concerns about the potential impact the pre-agreed deal could have on EU farmers and consumers.

"Many farmers are worried and concerned" because they feel "they will bear the brunt", said German MEP Herbert Dorfmann.

"There are some very critical issues," said Italian MEP Paolo De Castro who questioned the speeding-up of negotiations at the end of the legislative term and stressed the committee will debate the agreement and study its impact on EU farmers thoroughly.

"It is worse than we expected," said German MEP Martin Häusling, warning that "the beef market in Europe is going to be on its knees in a couple of years".

He also said farmers are "victims of a policy" to "sell industrial products even if that means sacrificing agriculture".

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