Irish presidency searches for consensus
Monday’s Farm Council meeting in Brussels kicked off with Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney reaffirming that his country’s Presidency’s 'ambitious' aim will be to reach a consensus among member states on a 2014-2020 CAP by March 18-19 this year, with European Parliament approval by June reports Agra Europe. He believes there are '30 or so' elements of the reform proposals still dividing member states, which he stressed was a 'manageable number', while EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said the proposed timetable was 'difficult but not impossible' (which means that it probably is unattainable).
Coveney urged his fellow ministers to start moving from 'fixed' to 'compromise' positions so the Council can reach a common position. 'This hasn't happened yet and it needs to start happening now,' he warned, noting wide support for Dublin's work programme and the 'extraordinary' job by the Parliament's agriculture committee (ComAgri) to establish its negotiating position last week.
Ministers raised a number of lingering individual concerns at Monday’s meeting, notably the need to make the 'greening' requirements of the proposed reforms simple and workable and the risk to certain sectors posed by the planned equalisation of subsidies within member states or regions by 2019.
The plan to tie 30 per cent of direct payments to new environmental requirements - and for recognition of 'equivalent' measures - remains a big concern for many countries, with the Dutch delegation warning there is still 'a lot to do' at both a technical and political level. The UK, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia all reiterated calls for states to have more flexibility to implement greening, though French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll urged ministers to focus on reaching a compromise based on the Commission's proposals.