I have said previously that Ireland is prepared to put a major effort into securing a deal on CAP reform during the Irish EU Presidency. However, to do this, three things need to happen:
- there must be agreement on the MFF as soon as possible,
- there must be substantial progress during previous presidencies on technical issues,
- all three institutions - the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission - need to engage actively in the negotiating process.
The CAP reform dossier comprises seven legislative proposals in all. These have been the subject of detailed examination by the Council over the last year, in Working Groups, the Special Committee on Agriculture and the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers. Good progress has been made by the Danish and Cyprus Presidency on many of the technical issues and we are now approaching the point at which the more political issues fall to be decided.
However, a number of CAP reform issues, relating, primarily but not exclusively, to financial matters, fall to be decided by Heads of State and Government in the context of the negotiations on the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework for the EU budget. It is expected that Heads of State and Government will return to the MFF negotiations early in the new year, following on their discussion on 22/23 November. If they reach agreement, it will provide a window for finalisation of a Council position on CAP reform.
The CAP reform dossier falls to be decided in full co-decision with the European Parliament. Thus, in parallel with the Council, the European Parliament is conducting a detailed examination of the dossier. The rapporteurs assigned to each of the legislative proposals produced draft reports in May and June last. These were the subject of some 7,000 amendments and the Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture (COMAGRI) is scheduled to vote on these amendments in January next. These amendments will subsequently be voted upon in a plenary session of the Parliament, which is tentatively scheduled for the week beginning 11 March. This will give a mandate to COMAGRI to enter into Trilogue discussions with the Council and the Commission. Trilogues are the platform through which final agreement is reached between the three institutions.
In these circumstances, there is a narrow window of opportunity for securing political agreement on CAP reform in the first six months of next year during the Irish Presidency.
I should add that my own national priorities in these negotiations remain unchanged. These are to get the best possible outcome for Ireland, focusing on five key areas:
- delivering a well-resourced CAP,
- retaining Ireland’s share of CAP funds,
- maximising payment model flexibility for Member States,
- ensuring rural development policy supports competitiveness and sustainability, and
- keeping the CAP as simple and as effective as possible for farmers and Member States.