Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ciolos odds on favourite for farm commissioner

Dacian Ciolos looks like he is the front runner for re-appointment for a second term as farm and rural development commissioner. He has not offended any major players among the member states and has been careful not to upset the French, being perceived originally as a French-approved appointment. He is strongly backed by his own government with farming being a more important part of their economy than in most member states.

From a reform perspective, he has been a disappointment, but that is not surprising. It is difficult to get reform through in the face of the vested interests of member states. The farm share of the budget is dropping, but relatively little has been done to make the CAP responsive to climate change.

There is an argument for continuity for the CAP, as Cioloș would be able to oversee mid-term reviews of ‘greening’ and other 2014-2020 reforms that he proposed back in 2011. But 'continuity' can be another way of saying 'business as usual'. The inefficiencies of the CAP are bound to be an agenda item in any referendum debate in the UK.

Ireland is always keen to get the farm commissioner's post and has done well in the role in the past (think of the MacSharry reforms). The Republic's Phil Hogan, who has served as Irish environment, community and local government minister since March 2011, is being advanced as a candidate. Hogan, from the Fine Gael party that is in coalition government with the Irish Labour Party, also has experience in EU issues and is being backed by fellow Fine Gael politician and MEP Mairead McGuinness. McGuinness, from the EPP group and an active member of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (ComAgri) throughout the CAP reform process, is now a vice-president of the Parliament.

There are a couple of dark horses and one former Spanish agriculture minister Miguel Arias Cañete, since elected to the new European Parliament. Yet the chances for Italian Socialist (S&D) MEP Paolo de Castro, who was ComAgri chair in 2009-2014, appear slimmer.

Although there is much horse trading to come, Ciolos must be the odds on favourite.

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