Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson attended and participated in the Informal Meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Dublin on Monday of this week. Mr Nicholson, the only Northern Ireland MEP involved in this phase of the process, attended as part of the European Parliament’s delegation in his capacity as agriculture co-ordinator for the ECR Group.
This was the first time in this reform process that MEPs came in direct contact with the Agriculture Ministers from all EU member states.
Speaking after the talks Jim said: “Simon Coveney’s invitation for a delegation from the Parliament to attend the Council was something of a surprise – this is the first time that members if the Parliament have sat in the same room with the Commission and Council as equals – and I could not help but reflect on what went before in previous reforms when the view of Parliament was totally overlooked.
Our discussions allowed us to state our positions across all aspects of the CAP which once again highlighted the divergent views between member states and between regions within member states. The European Parliament’s delegation used the opportunity to state directly to the Ministers what MEPs would and would not accept. I used the opportunity to speak to several of the Ministers present, including; the UK’s Owen Paterson, the Republic of Ireland’s Simon Coveney plus their French and Danish counterparts.
We are working hard for a deal by the end of June but to me it is still not clear if this process will deliver a policy that is flexible enough to take account of the differences across the EU and simplified enough to implement on farms. We are nowhere close at this point but I have no doubt that over the next 4 weeks the process will intensify with hope that an agreement will be possible. For me however no deal is better than a bad deal.”