21/10/2011

O'Neill Joins EC CAP Reform Discussions

Controversial reform of Europe's package of farm subsidies have been in focus again this week as the NI Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill attended the EU Agriculture Council, which discussed the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) Reform proposals.

Speaking after the discussions in Luxembourg the Minister said: "Commissioner Cilos presented his proposals to the Council and Ministers from the 27 Member States gave their initial reactions.

"This was an important Council as it set out the opening position for the forthcoming reform negotiations.

"By being here, I, along with my Ministerial colleagues from Scotland and Wales, was able to ensure that the response to the proposals presented by the British Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, was a balanced representation of our collective concerns and objectives," the Sinn Fein Stormont Minister added.

The Minister explained: "We had very constructive discussions before the start of the Council and I was very pleased that the presentation by Caroline Spelman to the Council was much closer to our position than has been the case in the past.

"Mrs Spelman stressed the importance of securing a bigger share of the EU rural development budget for Britain and the north of Ireland, which is one of my key objectives for the coming reforms.

"She also highlighted our concerns around the Commissions greening proposals for Pillar I of the CAP and I was particularly pleased that we were able to convince the Defra Minister not to use the occasion yet again to voice her desire to cut the CAP budget.

"I made it clear to her that this is not a position which I could ever support," she said.

While in Luxembourg, the Minister was also able to hold a bilateral meeting with the Irish Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, who "We used the opportunity to take stock of our respective positions on CAP reform, as well as touch on a number of important fisheries matters in advance of the key Fisheries Councils in November and December," said Minister O'Neill, concluding: "Overall this was a very positive start to the CAP reform negotiations and we can now move on to the next stage of considering the detail of this complex and radical set of reform proposals."

Last week, a long-awaited package of far-reaching reforms was published for discussion across Europe.

See: Battle Joined On CAP Reforms: Dodds

See: CAP Reform Proposals Revealed In Brussels

(BMcC)

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