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Clarke in Brussels to address public hearing on CAP Health check

2 July, 2008

Sinn Féin MLA for South Down, Willie Clarke is today addressing a public hearing in the European Parliament, Brussels which will focus on CAP Health Check legislative proposals and the future of agriculture under CAP.

The hearing is being organised by the Confereration of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left and is happening at a time when food prices are spiralling. There will be an exchange of views on the European Commission proposals as well as the right to food and a high quality environment. Expert opinion from througout Europe as well as from representative organisations including European Farmers Coordination and Birdlife International will be heard.

Speaking from Brussels this morning where he met with party colleague, Bairbre de Brún MEP to discuss yesterday's report by the Assembly Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on renewable energy and alternative land use , Mr Clarke said:

"The CAP Health Check legislative proposals were published on 20 May 2008. Discussions have now commenced between EU member states with a view to reaching an agreement later in the year for implementation in 2009 and 2010. Today's public hearing in Brussels is timely as Sinn Féin will be holding a consultation on the proposals over the next few months involving key stakeholders who will help inform our position regarding the forthcoming negotiations.

"Looking at the Health Check proposals, my party's initial reaction is that it should be possible to reach agreement on most of the issues contained within the proposals. However we would stress the need for good communication between DEFRA and the Assembly at both Ministerial and offical level on Health Check matters. Much effort needs to be made to reach an agreed position."

Welcoming Mr Clarke's participation in today's public hearing Bairbre de Brún MEP made reference to the recent World Trade Organisation talks.

She said:

"EU Commissioner for External Trade, Peter Mandeleson seems willing to sacrifice the interests of our farmers and our rural community not for the good of the developing world, but as part of an international bargaining game.

"In terms of the CAP Health Check there must be a balance between simplifying matters and making them more effective and giving farmers some sort of stability as they produce food for us and maintain the countryside. If it is implemented fairly, we should welcome a limit to large payments to large-scale farmers or to large companies as a step forward from the Common Agricultural Policy which only helps big landowners. It is also important that only active farmers are included in payment entitlements." CRÍOCH

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