I propose to take Questions Nos. 183, 184 and 189 together.
Recent months have seen very positive developments in the negotiations on reform of the CAP. The agreement by the European Council on the Multiannual Financial Framework on 8 February provided the necessary clarity to enable the CAP discussions to move forward. This was followed by the adoption by the European Parliament of its overall position on the reform proposals at its plenary session on 12 March. This was in turn followed by the agreement by the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 19 March on its so-called ‘General Approach’ to the reform package, following the tabling of compromise proposals by the Irish Presidency.
We have therefore moved from a narrower focus on the finalisation of a Council position to the point where the Council position is itself just one of three different perspectives being brought to the table. Of course, the big question is whether the three institutions can come to an agreement on these and other issues by the end of June. My strong belief is that they can. The vehicle will be the so-called “trilogue” process. Typically, this represents the final phase of negotiations in areas where the European Parliament has a co-decision role. Indeed, this is the first time that the Parliament has had such a role in relation to a CAP reform package. As President of the Council, Ireland is representing Member States in these negotiations.
I am happy to report that progress has been very good so far. The trilogues have been held in a very positive, constructive atmosphere. All of the institutions have responded to the Presidency’s call for a collaborative endeavour, and for a spirit of compromise to inform the process. Progress has been achieved on a number of technical issues, facilitated by technical discussions which are running in parallel to the trilogue meetings. In addition, more politically sensitive points that have been encountered so far have been discussed in a preliminary or exploratory way in the trilogues and parked for further consideration later. In this regard I have agreed with the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, Paolo de Castro, on a further parallel process aimed at making progress on the big political issues that are likely to form the basis of the final political agreement.
The final target for that political agreement is the end of June. It is clear that the European Parliament and the Commission are committed to achieving this objective. The Member States have also demonstrated their commitment, and as President of the Council of Ministers, I intend to do all I can to ensure that the deadline is met. I need to be clear however that the timeline for political agreement by end June is extremely tight and ambitious. It can only be achieved with a fair wind and an exceptional effort by all three institutions.
The reformed CAP will set the policy framework for the future development of the Irish agricultural sector. I am confident that we can secure a political agreement on the CAP before the end of June that will be good for Irish and EU agriculture and that will allow enhanced development of all of the sectors of importance to the Irish agri-food industry.