As Chairman of the AgriFish Council of Ministers during the six months Irish Presidency of the Council, I can report that significant progress has been made on the Presidency’s policy objectives.
Recent months have seen very positive developments in the negotiations on reform of the CAP and I am confident that we will achieve political agreement on this package before the end of June. 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 in 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.
At the beginning of the Irish EU Presidency an ambitious and demanding work programme was set out in order to pursue a successful agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). After months of intensive negotiations, agreement on a new reformed CFP was finally reached between the Irish Presidency, European Commission and the European Parliament on 30 May. Coreper (Committee of Permanent Representatives) endorsed the texts of the CFP Reform basic regulation and the Common Market Organisation (CMO) on Friday 14 June last. The formal political agreement of the European Parliament is expected in the coming weeks.
This radical reform will support the rebuilding of fish stocks in our waters as Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas are set to deliver maximum sustainable yield by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 for all stocks, and the wasteful practice of discarding fish is phased out. The changes once implemented will mean real meaningful reform to the Common Fisheries Policy and will determine European fisheries policy for the next decade and beyond.
Significant progress in a number of other legislative areas was also made during Ireland’s Presidency. Political agreement was reached on the important Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals proposals which will enable EU citizens to travel more easily within the EU with their pets. Agreement between the institutions was also reached on the so-called Breakfast Omnibus package of proposals concerning several directives relating to certain foods including coffee and chicory extracts, cocoa and chocolate products and certain dehydrated milk products; these are all part of wider measures to allow EU consumers make more informed choices concerning the food they buy. The new Farm Accountancy Data Network Regulation was also finalised.
Following adoption by the Commission in May/early June, discussions have also commenced on what is commonly called the “5-Part Package”, a package consisting of 5 separate proposals on Animal Health Law, Protective Measures against Pests of Plants, Plant Reproductive Material Law, Official Controls Regulation and the Regulation on Food and Feed Expenditure. My officials will continue to advance these dossiers over the coming weeks.