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Minister Smith welcomes European Council recognition of the role of Agriculture

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Brendan Smith today welcomed the fact that the EU heads of Government have underlined the importance of the Common Agricultural Policy to the future of Europe.  "I am aware that the Taoiseach played a leading role in ensuring that the Heads of Government recognised that a sustainable productive and competitive agricultural sector will make an important contribution to the new EU2020 strategy for the development of Europe's economy."

The Minister repeated his call for all key interests to fully engage with the EU negotiations on the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013.   "Following on the consultation process on the new CAP which I undertook in mid 2009, I called on all Irish interest groups to ensure that there was a strong Irish voice in every relevant forum supporting the CAP.  The conclusions from the European Council provide a strengthened platform for that engagement."

The Minister rejected the recent suggestion by Alan Kelly MEP that the debate on the new CAP was not getting the attention it deserved. "He may not be fully aware of the process of consultation and debate that has been in train for some considerable time". The Minister said that he nevertheless welcomed the MEP's input to the debate.

"I am glad to say that many of our MEPs have been fully and actively engaged with this issue for some time and I would stress the key role they have to play in the negotiation process following the enhancement of Parliament's role in the Lisbon Treaty". The Minister said that his officials had already undertaken a number of briefing sessions for our MEPs on this important subject and he was pleased that they had been so well attended.

"I launched an extensive consultation process with a wide range of Irish stakeholders in July of 2009" the Minister said.   "My aim was to get their views on what EU agriculture policies they believe will serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come.  I was very pleased with the volume and quality of the responses received and they are being used to inform our position in the ongoing negotiations."

Concrete proposals for the new CAP will not be put on the table by the Commission until the middle of next year, the Minister said.  "However I have been fully engaged with my counterparts in other Member States and the Commission to put forward Ireland's view at every opportunity in this very important informal phase of negotiations when the direction of future policy will, in effect, be decided.  I have discussed the matter both with the outgoing and incoming Commissioner for Agriculture.  In addition to contributing to several formal debates at the EU Agriculture Council, I have had bilateral meetings both at Ministerial and official level with my colleagues from a number of other Member States. "

"My belief is that we must maintain a strong and properly financed agricultural policy in the EU.  This view is shared by a majority of my Ministerial colleagues as is evidenced by the declaration agreed by 22 Member States including Ireland in Paris last December."

Date Released: 26 March 2010