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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Margaret Donnelly

CAP power struggle a test of how much control the EU is willing to give up

Margaret Donnelly

Discussions between Department of Agriculture officials and their European Commission counterparts will put the final shape on the next CAP in the coming weeks.

It seems Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is still confident the CAP will be signed off by the end of the summer.

Reading the Department’s General Secretary Brendan Gleeson’s response to the Commission’s criticisms of Ireland’s CAP plan, I was reminded of Phil Hogan’s time in the ‘big seat’ in Brussels.

It was a time when the Irish agri-food sector had unprecedented access to the key decision-maker on EU ag affairs. I wonder if Ireland would get an easier ride if Big Phil was still around?

But I think probably not.

During his time in office, ‘simplification’ was Hogan’s biggest buzzword. He knew red tape was a major bugbear of farmers and cutting it to a minimum would be in everyone’s interest.

However, he didn’t reckon with the Brussels bureaucracy and the Climate Action agenda, which comes with unprecedented and unavoidable levels of red tape.

After all the hustle and bustle about simplification, I’m certain there aren’t too many farmers who think their lives have gotten any easier on the red-tape front. One thing is for sure, the term has been consigned to the bin by the bureaucrats in Brussels.

It brings into question the status of the other major legacy of Hogan’s tenure, which will be under the spotlight in Ireland’s discussions with the Commission in the coming weeks — namely subsidiarity.

It’s a typical EU buzzword that basically means member states should be given the flexibility to make decisions that best suit local circumstances.

It was notable that in his response to the Commission, Gleeson highlighted the EU’s stated goal to give member states more control over the implementation of the CAP.

Subsidiarity must be “meaningful”, he said.

The level of criticism and pushback from the EU to Ireland’s original CAP plan will draw into question how much power Brussels is really willing to give up. Or will subsidiarity end up like simplification — meaningless.

Time will tell.

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