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Crucial Day for CAP Reform Negotiations - Coveney calls on member states to take a clear and decisive step towards a new CAP framework

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, will chair the third meeting of the Agri/Fish Council under the Irish Presidency on Monday and Tuesday next, 18 and 19 March. This is a crucial meeting, at which the Minister hopes to agree a comprehensive Council position on the CAP reform package. Achieving an agreement will allow the process to move on to the next stage of the negotiations, involving the European Parliament and the Commission, and will bring one step closer the objective of concluding an overall political agreement by the end of June.

On assuming the Presidency of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, Minister Coveney made it clear that his primary objective was to secure what is known as a Council general approach on the entire CAP reform package by the end of March.

The Minister has kept this target firmly in his sights as he and his officials have worked in recent weeks to resolve Member States’ outstanding issues. Significant progress has been made, with agreement achieved on a number of aspects of the Commission’s proposals in the areas of rural development, the common organisation of the market, and the financing and monitoring of the CAP. “Member States have arrived at a very important point on the road to successful reform of the CAP. Huge efforts have been made by previous Presidencies - and by this Presidency - on a reform that will set the policy framework for European agriculture for the next seven years. We have discussed the issues for some time. Real and substantial progress has been made. But we must now take a definitive step forward.”

It now remains to find definitive solutions for those issues that have proven most difficult to finalise. The Minister highlighted in particular the hotly debated issues of how direct payments are to be distributed within Member States (internal convergence) and the Commission’s proposals in relation to the greening of the CAP, as well as the future of sugar quotas and the vine planting rights regime. Considerable progress has already been made with his Member State counterparts on these and on other outstanding issues, either bilaterally or through Council meetings. Following on from this, the Minister has tabled a comprehensive set of revised texts of all of the proposed regulations which he feels addresses Member States’ concerns and represents a balanced overall compromise. “I am not underestimating the scale of the challenge next week - it is indeed a significant one given the range and complexity of issues that are still on the table. However, in another sense it is also a very straightforward one, because in the end it boils down to the ability to compromise. A lot of the issues that remained unresolved at the beginning of January have now been dealt with. We therefore know what we have left to do, and I have prepared a comprehensive set of proposals that I think will allow us to get it done. I believe I have responded to the remaining concerns of Member States with a well-balanced compromise, and if the approach of my colleagues to these two days of negotiations is informed by the same spirit of compromise, I am confident we will succeed.”

Minister Coveney acknowledged that the task ahead represents a very significant challenge for all Member States given the range and complexity of issues that have had to be addressed in a relatively short period of time. Nevertheless, he called on his colleagues to actively engage in what he hopes will be a constructive process characterised by a spirit of compromise on all sides over the two days of the Council. He also expressed optimism that this week’s Plenary vote in the European Parliament would provide a further impetus that would be harnessed to full effect by Member States. And he expressed confidence that Member States would translate into concrete actions the commitments they made in January in relation to achieving the objectives set by the Irish Presidency. “As we embark on what I hope will be a decisive step forward, I would urge my colleagues to keep the broader perspective in mind. If we want to conclude an inter-institutional agreement with the European Parliament and the Commission by the end of June, we need to agree a Council general approach now. The Parliament demonstrated this week that it is ready to play its part. The Council must now do likewise.”

Date Released: 15 March 2013