The new College of Commissioners was unveiled on 10th September and with it their priorities for the coming 5 years.
The key appointment of Commissioner Hogan to the role of Commissioner for Trade was greatly welcomed by ICOS and the Irish agri-food community. Irish co-operatives are now exporting up to 90% of their products and accessing diversified international markets is central to their ability to create value for their members. Commissioner Hogan has already demonstrated himself to be a deft trade negotiator and facilitator – he has led many successful trade missions which have been beneficial for our participating co-operative businesses in developing international consumer relationships. Now, more than ever before this role is a vitally important one for the Irish agri-food sector, as the task of accessing new markets becomes more important, thanks to the pressures of Brexit and new challenges are arising from key export markets.
We hope that the consistent support Commissioner Hogan has provided to the agri-food sector over will continue in this new role and highlight the following key priorities for the next five years:
- Securing stability and enhancing access to existing key markets for the EU agri-food sector, in particular the US as well as potentially the UK in future.
- Reviewing our existing trading arrangements to optimise their impact and fulfil their original objectives. For example, the benefits of the EU – Canada Free Trade Agreement have so far been limited due to the existence of numerous barriers for EU agri -food exporters.
- Opening up new markets in Asia and the Middle East, which are currently difficult for the agri-food sector to access largely due to significant regulatory barriers.
Polish Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, was appointed to the role of Commissioner for Agriculture, replacing Hogan and taking over the responsibility for the conclusion of the reform for the Common Agricultural Policy, which is at a critical juncture. Wojciechowski is a former member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and has since been appointed to the European Court of Auditors. He therefore has a deep knowledge of EU agriculture, although a specific awareness of the concerns of eastern Europe. This has the potential to influence the flow of funding between EU member states within the CAP, as the debate regarding so called external convergence of funds has yet to be resolved.
In this role Wojciechowski has been urged to focus on environment and climate objectives and developing a new rural strategy. His has also been tasked with contributing to the new “Farm to Fork’ strategy for sustainable food”, together with Commissioner-designate for Health Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) which aims to improve sustainability within the food supply chain, including through “reducing the use of pesticides, fertilisers and chemicals.”
These objective ties into the key focus on the incoming Commission, that of transition the EU to a full circular and low emission economy, known as a ‘European Green Deal’. This is the responsibility of New Executive Vice-President, Frans Timmermans (Netherlands), who expected to introduce numerous new pieces of legislation relating to the EU climate policy within the first 100 days. Commissioner Hogan will also work with Timmermans on the design and information of a Carbon Border Tax, imposed on goods imported into the EU from countries with less climate protections.
For Commissioner Wojciechowski, ICOS would highlight:
- The necessity of first ensuring the conclusion of the CAP reform begun by Commissioner Hogan and centrally, securing a sufficient budget for the policy. It is essential that the agri-food sector be adequately supported if it is to meet its climate and environmental goals.
- The central role of co-operatives in supporting rural areas and providing key infrastructure and jobs to ensure their vibrancy. Co-operatives must therefore play a central part of the EU’s new Rural Strategy.
- Generation Renewal and supporting young farmers must continue to be a key focus for the Commissioner going forward, this is the only way to deliver a “sustainable” EU agricultural system.
Alison Graham, European Affairs Executive
30 Apr 2021