Irish MEPs oppose mooted proposals to slash CAP budget

Two Irish MEPs have rejected the proposals expected to be tabled by the President of the European Council President later this week for a drastically reduced Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget.

Both Mairead McGuinness and Seán Kelly have given their reactions to the mooted proposal – which, if enacted, would see the CAP budget reduced to €329.3 billion – down over 19% on the previous €410 billion budget up to 2020.

However, the two Fine Gael MEPs highlighted that things are still at an early stage.

MEP and First Vice President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness warned that, if the latest budget proposal being put to EU leaders is accepted, the EU will fail to deliver on its commitments to tackle climate change in a way that provides for a just transition and supports farmers.

She said the week’s European Council meeting is critical and such proposals must be resisted.

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“The UK’s departure from the EU leaves a gap in funding for the remaining 27 member states but the European Parliament believes that an ambitious Europe should make up some of the gap rather than cutting vital EU programmes,” she said.

Farmers need certainty about the funding for the CAP in the coming years, the MEP said.

Yet thus far all they see coming down the tracks is more demands on them to change to address biodiversity and climate issues – and to do so with less money.

McGuinness described mooted cuts of up to 25% on rural development payments as “nothing short of a disaster”, adding that rural development should be where tailor-made measures could be introduced to tackle issues such as habitat restoration and animal welfare.

“The EU is committed to tackling biodiversity decline and has ambitious climate targets – yet the budget proposed is anything but ambitious. In reality, it lacks ambition and is a budget of the past – not one fit for the future.”

The MEP said it is unacceptable that the promised Just Transition Fund of €7.5 billion which will help the transition to a low-carbon economy comes from cuts across a range of policy areas, including agriculture, rather than additional funding being made available.

“EU leaders face a challenge in a post-Brexit era to keep the EU as a world leader in facing the new challenges ahead,” McGuinness said.

“The lack of ambition sadly reflects a desire among a few member states to curtail the EU and keep their contributions from increasing at a time when an increase is not just needed but is essential,” she concluded.

‘Must oppose and overturn proposed cuts’

Meanwhile, in a brief reaction, Sean Kelly said he disagrees completely with the proposed cuts – but added that it’s only a proposal at this stage.

“We (MEPs) and the Irish Government must oppose and overturn the proposed cuts”, he said.