At the Agri-Fish Council on 18 November 2019, the Commission presented two proposals for CAP transitional rules. Such transitional measures are normal practice between consecutive programming periods, to provide legal and financial certainty where a gap arises due to any delays in finalising a new EU Budget and CAP regulations.
The recent Council accepted the need for such proposals and broadly welcomed them. However, discussions are ongoing, with a number of key issues yet to be agreed.
The Commission proposals provide he option to extend the current Rural Development Programme, in certain circumstances. It aims at providing certainty on the process around granting of support for the year 2021. Agreement on this regulation is not expected to be achieved until Summer 2020, subject to agreement on the EU budget. Discussions on this latter regulation will continue over the coming months.
The transitional regulations are complex and a number of issues need to be considered in more detail, in relation to the Rural Development Programme and how the transitional regulation will work in practice. I am continuing to work with the Commission and my European Ministerial colleagues to reach agreement on these important legislative proposals and provide certainty to Irish farmers at the earliest possible date.
I expect that the transitional regulations will, at a minimum, provide for the extension of the existing RDP into 2021 and there should be no interruption in direct payments. It may also be possible to provide for new Agri Environment, climate, organic farming or animal welfare schemes, for a maximum of three years. The precise arrangements will be clarified when agreement is reached on the regulations.
In the meantime the N+3 rule will continue to apply, so that scheme commitments entered into by farmers prior to the end of 2020 will continue to be honoured after that date.
Also at Council, my European Ministerial colleagues and I also had the opportunity to discuss the Finnish Presidency's proposal to set a single common percentage, or fixed amount, for environmental and climate purposes across the whole CAP Strategic Plan, as opposed to defined percentages for particular pillars.
I am a strong proponent of the higher level of environmental ambition in the next CAP and I am ready to explore all possible options. However, I believe the details of the Finnish Presidency's proposal will have to be developed further before we reach any definitive conclusions. It is essential that the proposed new environmental conditionality is implemented effectively, with common standards that are relevant and effective.
I took the opportunity to again reiterate that it is vitally important that the overall level of the budget acknowledges the public goods being delivered by farmers. Negotiations for the CAP post 2020 are still ongoing and I will continue to seek to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector.