Hogan to remain as commissioner for second term

Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan has been nominated by the Government to remain at the European Commission for the next five years, it has been confirmed.

The news follows a cabinet meeting this lunchtime, Tuesday, July 9, where the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, announced the update in a memo to his colleagues.

Although the Kilkenny native has held the EU Commissionership for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 1, 2014, it is not yet clear whether he will remain in the same portfolio.

It has been widely suggested in recent months that Commissioner Hogan could be in line to take the reins from Swedish politician, Cecilia Malmström, the current European Commissioner for Trade.

However, it will be up to the next president of the European Commission –  expected to be German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen who formally secured a nomination from the union’s leaders last week – to assign portfolios to the 28 commissioners, one from each member state.

In a statement, the Department of the Taoiseach the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed his intention to nominate Phil Hogan for a second term as Ireland’s member of the European Commission.

Speaking today, the Taoiseach said: “Over the past five years Commissioner Hogan has done an excellent job as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. He has highlighted the interests and concerns of the agricultural sector across Europe.

“Phil is widley respected in Brussels and across the EU as a skilled negotiator and someone who builds alliances.

He has also been a very important voice on Brexit, ensuring that his colleagues in the commission have a keen understanding of the potential impact that the UK’s exit will have on Ireland and other member states.

“In recent months he has secured an aid package for Irish beef farmers, in recognition of the significant challenges facing the sector as a result of ongoing market disturbance related to Brexit.

“His re-nomination is an endorsement of his work to date, an indication of the importance we place on our engagement with EU institutions.

“We need our best people in Europe. The Government will now work closely with our colleagues in the EU to support him in securing the best possible portfolio in the new commission,” the Taoiseach concluded.

Mercosur backlash

Over the last couple of weeks there has been much discussion and debate over Commissioner Hogan’s future career in Brussels – particularly in light of political agreement being reached on the draft EU-Mercosur trade deal after 20 years of negotiations.

Commissioner Hogan has been the subject of strong criticism from the farming community since the announcement of the draft deal which agrees to preferential tariff rate access for 99,000t of beef from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay into the EU market over a five-year period.

However, under the deal, significant gains are expected in the EU car, car manufacturing, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical areas.

The Taoiseach has stated that the Government will carry out a full economic assessment of the EU-Mercosur trade deal in a bid to establish the impact that it could potentially have on the Irish economy.

The draft deal would need to be rejected by a third of all member states in order to prevent it getting the green light.