'Mission impossible' to prevent cuts to farm payments, says EU budget Chief

Some Member States are looking for CAP budget to be cut by 30pc

German EU Commissioner for budget and human resources Gunther Oettinger
German EU Commissioner for budget and human resources Gunther Oettinger
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

European Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said it is ‘mission impossible’ to prevent cuts to the next EU budget including payments to farmers.

He told Joint Committee of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform that that the Brexit blackhole was at least €12 billion representing 7-8pc of the EU budget.

He informed Oireachtas members worried about cuts to farm payments that he has been in 18 other national parliaments that some are demanding 30pc cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy.

“I have to fight to get a decision by unanimity. It is not easy. You need majority here,” he said.

Commissioner Oettinger said his proposal was to fill the Brexit gap with a 50/50 split between increased contributions from member states and cuts to EU programs. He said his proposal was to reduce the CAP budget by 5-10pc.

Ireland is prepared to increase its contributions to the EU overall budget, if other countries do too and working programmes such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is protected, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently said.

He said that the Irish Government is willing to consider an increase in its contribution to EU funds over the next five years, as long as well functioning programmes, such as the CAP.

Countries currently contribute to EU funds based on their Gross National Income (GNI) based on the size of their economy, which he said is fair.

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He also said that if Europe is going to do new things, then it should look at new sources of money for these, around migration and security.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of two main budget lines facing the chop, along with regional subsidies, which together make up 70pc of the bloc's €150bn a year budget.

A Commission paper recently outlined three options for future farm payments - maintaining spending (but funnelling more money to small farmers), slashing the budget by 30pc or cutting it by 15pc.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) said the Government should not "contemplate any of the options" which it said "would shut down agriculture and rural Ireland".

"This is a clear attempt to 'soften up' the European agri sector for a cut in the CAP budget, and it is totally unacceptable and it won't work," IFA president Joe Healy said.

The European Commission options paper is intended to prod national governments into boosting their budget contributions, with one official saying the worst-case scenario of a 30pc cut in the CAP will not materialise.

The EU estimates the increase should be more than 1.1pc but less than 1.2pc - "1.1x", according to budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger - which would mean a boost of €100bn or more.

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