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Minister Smith attends Informal Council of Agriculture Ministers Meeting in Austria

Mr. Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, attended the Informal Meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers held on 29/30 May in Krems, Austria, which considered key factors for the competitiveness of EU agriculture. Minister Smith said that the focus at the Council on factors such as education, research and development, innovation and diversification was timely and important in the context of the reformed CAP. These were precisely the type of factors addressed in the Government's Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan.

Addressing the Council, Minister Smith highlighted the necessity for agriculture and food to develop as part of a competitive knowledge-based economy. He emphasised the importance of education and training to enable farmers to meet the new demands in terms of developing more efficient, competitive and sustainable production systems. He said that agricultural training will have to take account both of the new demands on agriculture and the changing structure of the sector.

Minister Smith suggested the need to consider the development of a European-wide framework of qualifications. "In line with the Copenhagen and Lisbon agendas, initiatives to promote transnational recognition of qualifications and sharing of expertise should all be encouraged", said Minister Smith. He advocated the development of pilot programmes in new areas of training such as renewable energy to bring together the expertise and experience from different Member States.

Minister Smith also used the opportunity to have bilateral discussions with several Ministers to discuss the ongoing WTO negotiations. He made clear Ireland's position that agriculture, which is of major importance not alone from an economic but also from a social and environmental perspective, cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the Round and that a balanced outcome respecting the Council's negotiating mandate was essential.

31 May, 2006

Date Released: 31 May 2006