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Declan O'Brien: 2013 deadline for CAP reform looking dodgey

There is a growing consensus among commentators that the CAP reform process will struggle to meet the 2013 deadline. While Commission officials insist that the ongoing crisis within the euro zone has not delayed progress, there is little doubt that the economic turmoil has been hugely disruptive.

Speaking at the ICMSA AGM over the weekend, Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness told delegates that concluding the reform negotiations by the end of 2013 was now in serious doubt. Ms McGuinness said the European Parliament could not sign off on any CAP package without a final agreement on the overall EU budget for the 2015-2020 period.

She said the Parliament was willing to deal with CAP reform "to a point" but she warned that no green light would be forthcoming from MEPs unless there was a parallel agreement on the wider EU budget.

Talks on the budget are unlikely to get much consideration at the moment while the very future of the euro itself hangs in the balance.

Domestic political concerns are also likely to delay matters. Presidential elections in France next May mean that no hard bargaining on the reform package will take place over the next six months.

Further out in the timescale, German elections are scheduled for October 2013. It is difficult to see Chancellor Angela Merkel being too keen to conclude a deal in the middle of an election campaign.

All of this means that Ireland will face a difficult EU presidency in the second half of 2013. Not only will the CAP reform package be in the mix but a new common fisheries policy will also have to be agreed.

For farmers, the delay is likely to mean that the current regime will be rolled over for another year. And given that the devil you know is always better than the one you don't, that will be broadly welcomed.

On a different tack, there has been strong backing for Minister Coveney's decision to support the development of an advanced fish farm at a deep water site at Inis Oirr in Galway Bay.

This innovative step will create up to 500 jobs and is a vital plank in an ambitious plan to massively expand the Irish fish farming industry.

However, while welcoming the move, Richie Flynn, of the IFA's aquaculture committee, was correct when he said that Mr Coveney should also keep in mind the hundreds of inshore fish and shellfish farmers who have been waiting for years for renewals and new site licences for fish farms. More than 570 such licence applications are currently being reviewed by the Department.

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