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Minister Smith in Crucial EU Negotiations on the Review of the Common Agricultural Policy

Speaking from the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Luxembourg, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, said that negotiations on the CAP Health Check were now entering a decisive phase. Discussions at the Council meeting ran late into last night and continue this morning as the French Presidency seeks to move the 27 Member States towards agreement. These negotiations cover a wide range of issues in relation to the reform of the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP).

Minister Smith said: "I have a number of key priorities in these negotiations. In relation to milk policy, I am seeking sufficient milk quota increases and appropriate market management arrangements to ensure a "soft landing" in preparation for the expiry of quotas in 2015. It is very important that we have clear, predictable decisions on milk quotas to give policy certainty to producers and to industry. I am continuing to press the point that, for this hugely important sector, it is essential to have a policy framework which gives maximum possible certainty to all concerned, to allow them plan and invest with a view to availing of future market opportunities."

Turning to some of the other issues being dealt with in the Health Check, Minister Smith said: "I am continuing to make clear my opposition to the substantial increases in compulsory modulation proposed by the Commission. I have had numerous meetings with the Commission and with other Member States on this and my views are well known. I also think it is very important that we use this opportunity to seek further simplification of our payment systems, which I hope will be of benefit to our producers."

The Minister also referred to the opportunity for greater national discretion in the operation of EU support schemes and funds.

Ministers also discussed fisheries where they had an opportunity for an exchange of views on important elements of the end-year fish quota negotiations. In particular, and of major importance to Ireland, is the question of the EU-Norway negotiations on which Minister Smith made clear Ireland's views on the need for a balanced final deal that protects Ireland's interests.

Date Released: 28 October 2008