CAP reform is the only item on the agenda of the final meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers under the Irish Presidency, chaired by Irish Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney TD. He will seek to conclude the negotiations that have taken place over the last eighteen months and finalise a deal that will set the framework for European agriculture for the rest of this decade. Building in particular on the progress achieved by the three institutions since April during the trilogue negotiations, the Minister hopes to secure agreement on the remaining outstanding issues with his Member State counterparts, with the Parliament and with the European Commission.
The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, will chair the final meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers under the Irish Presidency in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday next, 24 and 25 June.
Minister Coveney said-
“Decision time has arrived. At the outset of the Irish Presidency I set out my stall very clearly with an ambitious programme that I hoped would lead to an overall political agreement on CAP reform by the end of June. With the commitment and support of Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission, we have been able to keep to that schedule. Following the formal adoption of our respective positions in March, and after an intense series of trilogue discussions and parallel political contacts, I believe an overall agreement is now within our grasp.”
The Minister explained that the meeting in Luxembourg will essentially be comprised of a number of elements. Firstly, the Council of Ministers will meet to discuss and affirm the progress made to date in the negotiations, and to identify potential compromises on the outstanding issues that remain to be resolved. Trilogue negotiations will then take place, in which the three institutions will be led by Minister Coveney, the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Prof. Paolo de Castro MEP, and Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. The Council will finalise its consideration of the issues on Tuesday 25 June and it is hoped to conclude the negotiations with an agreement in Brussels on Wednesday 26 June.
Minister Coveney - “Decision time has arrived. Following the formal adoption of our respective positions in March, and after an intense series of trilogue discussions and parallel political contacts, I believe an overall agreement is now within our grasp.”
Minister Coveney said-
“The meeting in Luxembourg will be a very focused one, with a challenging schedule. After initial exchanges with some Member States on Sunday, Monday will be comprised of alternate Council sessions and negotiations with the European Parliament aimed at reaching mutually acceptable solutions on the most sensitive issues that remain to be resolved. I hope that the Council and Parliament will be able to finalise a deal on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Notwithstanding the opportunity that was now presented, the Minister emphasised the scale of the challenge that still lies ahead. In terms of process, the three institutions are entering uncharted waters as they attempt to conclude direct negotiations on CAP reform for the first time. In addition, it is very clear that much work remains to be done on the substance, with outstanding issues across all four draft regulations. These issues include the distribution of direct payments within Member States, greening, sugar quotas, the operation of market support measures, the administration of areas of natural constraint, and financial and monitoring provisions. Although the trilogues have been encouraging in terms of process, and the constructive approach to date of Member States and MEPs gives cause for optimism on the outstanding issues, the Minister stressed that the scale of the task cannot be overstated.
“I am keenly aware of the significant challenges we face over the coming days. We are all new to this process, and we have to reach agreement on a number of highly sensitive issues on which the institutions have very strong views. Nevertheless, we must approach the negotiations with optimism, we must be willing to be flexible and, above all, we must demonstrate a clear commitment and determination to bring the process to a conclusion. I am ready to play my part, and I am confident that the European Parliament and the Commission are ready to play theirs.”
Concluding, Minister Coveney called on all of the protagonists to approach next week’s negotiations in the same constructive manner that had characterised the process in the last number of months. He said the time for a final decision on CAP reform had arrived. European farmers and the entire European agri-food sector were looking to the institutions to shape the future of the sector, and he urged all concerned to rise to the challenge.