The CAP post-2020 legislative proposals were published by Commissioner Hogan on 1 June 2018. Since then, intensive discussions have taken place. A significant number of working group meetings have been held under both the Austrian and Romanian presidencies. The proposals have also been discussed extensively at the Special Committee on Agriculture meetings and have been a standing agenda item at every Council meeting of EU agriculture ministers.
The Romanian Presidency has outlined its ambition to achieve a partial general approach on the CAP post-2020 proposals at its final meeting of EU agriculture ministers in June. To that end, the Presidency is undertaking ongoing discussions in Brussels on all elements of the proposals. While I am supportive of this ambitious timetable, it is very much dependent on a number of factors progressing in a timely manner. The European Commission's objective has been to have the proposals adopted by the co-legislators prior to the European Parliament elections in May. However, the European Parliament has not fully achieved agreement on the proposals and, until the position of the newly elected Parliament is known, it is difficult to have a clear timetable for the CAP reform process.
The draft proposals present a number of new and significant challenges for member states. The move from a compliance-based system to a performance-based system with a focus on results is perhaps the most significant change for member states to have to contend with in the new proposals. Member states will be required to prepare a CAP strategic plan, covering Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 expenditure. This will allow member states greater flexibility to design measures that are best suited to their own strategic needs. While I welcome this flexibility, preparation of the CAP strategic plan presents a number of challenges and complexities for member states, not least of which is the requirement for member states to submit their draft CAP strategic plans to the Commission for approval before the deadline of 1 January 2020. My Department is working towards this deadline, albeit amid uncertainty surrounding agreement on the funding for the next CAP as well as the finalisation of the regulations.
While significant progress has been made in the negotiation process to date, decisions on key issues, such as the provisions for direct payments and the new delivery model, have still to be agreed upon at EU level. The CAP proposals also point to a more significant environmental ambition than the current CAP. Member states will be required to design a specific climate and environment scheme in Pillar 1. This is something that I support as it is consistent with my Department’s long-term strategy for the agricultural sector, which recognises the critical importance of environmental sustainability. I believe that farmers play a vital role in the provision of public goods and need to be appropriately recognised and recompensed for this role.
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With this in mind, the retention of a sufficient budget for the CAP post 2020 is an essential requirement for Ireland. I have been very firm in my view that the proposed 5% cut to the CAP post-2020 budget as outlined in the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, proposals for 2021 to 2027 is completely unacceptable for Ireland. I have been strongly advocating for the CAP budget to be restored to current levels for the EU 27 post 2020, and I will continue to work towards achieving this objective until agreement on the MFF post-2020 proposals has been reached. There is also consensus on this point among my EU agriculture ministerial colleagues. However, EU budget negotiations are led by ministers of finance.
Furthermore, agreement on the overall EU budget must be reached by unanimity and this is a challenging task. I have also sought to continue this work as part of ongoing bilateral meetings. Since May 2018, my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, and I have met EU agriculture ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Hungary, inter alia, to support a strong CAP budget post 2020. I have also met ministers from the Netherlands, Estonia, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg and Austria. My officials engage regularly with counterparts in other member states on this issue. Ireland needs to work closely with its EU colleagues to build a consensus around the need to reverse the proposed cuts in the CAP. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to do this and to fight for a strong CAP budget as the negotiations progress.