As the final countdown to a reformed Commmon Agricultural Policy (CAP) commences this week, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has said that flexibility must be given to member states “in terms of their own national CAP plans, and finalising some key issues” that impact each country’s farmers.

A trilogue between the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU (in its Agriculture and Fisheries configuration); a delegation from the European Parliament; and the European Commission, which failed to reach agreement at the end of May, will recommence this week.

The upcoming trilogue is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, June 24-25, in advance of a meeting of agriculture ministers next Monday and Tuesday, June 28-29.

Minister McConalogue will, once again, represent Ireland at the meeting next week.

“This is a big challenge now and it is important that we bring it to a conclusion,” he told Agriland.

“We had a productive meeting with the council [of the EU] in Lisbon last week and it is fairly clear and united in relation to where it stands on different issues.

“The council has made significant moves to try to work towards a negotiated conclusion, but we haven’t seen the same real engagement from the parliament and it is important that they do that.

“I think it is also important that there is flexibility given to member states in terms of finalising their own national CAP strategic plans. This will involve challenging conversations, at national level, over the summer as part of this consultation, but it is something that we should not shy away from,” the minister added.

“The more difficult it is, all the more reason why farmers should be involved – they are the ones who will be impacted over the next seven years by this CAP and whose incomes are dependent on it.

“The key thing for me, at European level, is that they should not be setting and dictating what the outcome should be in Ireland; they should give us the flexibility to finalise decisions that have impacts on farmers. I think that is a reasonable approach to take and I hope that the parliament sees that also.”

The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU is due to end on the last day of June. Portugal’s agriculture minister, Maria do Ceu Antunes, is eager to get a deal on CAP across the line before her tenure ends.