Since I assumed office over two years ago, the EU agriculture agenda has been dominated by discussion of CAP reform. I have had innumerable discussions with the EU Commission on the content and impact of the proposals, both before they were formally adopted by the Commission and presented to Member States in October 2011 and since.
The Commission proposals envisage a strong future CAP based on two complementary pillars with three strategic aims of preserving food production potential in the EU, sustainable management of natural resources and maintaining viable rural areas. Ensuring price stability and a fair return to primary producers are central tenets of the reform in that the Commission proposals envisage maintaining direct payments to farmers and market support tools at safety-net level.
Since the beginning of the year, negotiations have made considerable progress across a number of fronts. Following the agreement by the European Council on the Multiannual Financial Framework in early February, the European Parliament agreed its position on the CAP reform package in March. This was followed, also in March, by the successful adoption by the Council of Agriculture Ministers - by a strong qualified majority - of its General Approach on CAP Reform. The latter, in particular, marked a considerable achievement, taking place as it did against a background of lengthy, intensive negotiations with my Member State colleagues across a range of complex and sensitive issues.
The negotiations have now moved to discussions between the EU institutions and an intensive schedule of trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and EU Commission commenced on 11th April 2013. The first trilogues have taken place in a very constructive and positive atmosphere, with working methods agreed, technical issues identified for further examination and initial discussions taking place on more difficult political points. These trilogues are continuing and we are still on course to achieve inter-institutional agreement by the end of June 2013.