Key elements of CAP reform- active farmers, the young farmers scheme and the small farmers scheme- discussed by European Agriculture Ministers today in Brussels Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, TD, to put final package to Council in June.
The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today welcomed what he described as a positive and useful discussion with European Agriculture Ministers on three elements of the CAP reform package on which there are clearly divergent views between the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, namely, active farmers, the young farmers scheme and the small farmers scheme. He undertook to reflect on the discussion and to accommodate Member States’ concerns in the final package that will be presented to the Council for decision at the end of June.
Minister Coveney first of all briefly updated his Member State colleagues in relation to the progress of trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and the Commission. He pointed to the positive and constructive nature of the negotiations between the three institutions, with good progress made on a number of issues across all four CAP reform dossiers. However, he also acknowledged the fact that, notwithstanding this forward movement, the three institutions hold quite different views in a number of areas. These will require political input to resolve if the reform package is to be agreed by the end of June.
The Minister used the opportunity today to focus attention on the current state of play on the direct payments dossier, and to discuss some of the issues that had already presented themselves as politically sensitive in the course of the trilogue discussions. The first of these related to the definition of ‘active farmer’, and particularly the concept of a ‘negative list’ of entities which would not be considered active farmers and would therefore not receive direct payments under the reformed CAP. Member States want such a negative list to be a voluntary provision, while the European Parliament would prefer it to be mandatory.
The second issue related to the proposed young farmers’ scheme. Again, the discussion focused on the question of whether this scheme should be mandatory or voluntary for Member States. The Council’s view is that the scheme should be voluntary, while the Parliament prefers a mandatory approach. Similarly, on the small farmers’ scheme, although the Council and Parliament agree that the scheme should be voluntary for Member States, the discussion focused on whether a change proposed by the Commission would allow it to become a mandatory scheme for all Member States, which the Commission would strongly prefer.
Minister Coveney - "Today was an important day for the Council. In addition to providing my Member State colleagues with an update on the progress of trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and Commission, I was able to raise the first of the more sensitive political issues that will increasingly dominate the agenda as we move towards what I hope will be a final agreement at the end of June.”
The Minister said that he was very happy with the exchanges on all three issues. Member States had been asked to consider how an agreement with the Parliament and Commission might be achieved, and he was pleased to note the degree of flexibility demonstrated by a number of Member States. He indicated that the Presidency would carefully consider the debate and would attempt to reflect Member States’ positions in the final package to be presented at the June Council.
Minister Coveney said-
“I think all Member States recognise that we are moving into a new phase of the negotiations which will require us to start making the final decisions on political issues. While not wishing to change the Council’s negotiating mandate today, I emphasised that Ministers need to start considering how flexible they can be, and particularly on the issues that we feel can be resolved ahead of the June deadline. We all need to demonstrate patience, understanding and a willingness to compromise, and today was essentially the start of the final stages of a process that I hope will lead ultimately to an overall compromise.”
The Council also discussed the EU’s position with regard to certain resolutions to be voted in the framework of the International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV) and, under any other business, a Greek item on the Tobacco Directive.