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Irish communities set to pay the price for European Commission power grab - Carthy

2 May, 2018 - by Matt Carthy MEP

The Sinn Féin member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, Matt Carthy, has accused the Irish Government of failing Irish farmers and communities by their lacklustre and deferential approach to the EU Budget.

Carthy was speaking today after the European Commission announced details of its draft long-term budget known as the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) which includes a proposed 5% cut in Agriculture spending despite seeking an overall increase in EU spending.

Speaking from Brussels where Commissioner Oettinger laid out the Commission’s proposals for the next 7-year budget, Matt Carthy also called the proposals a power-grab on the part of the EU Commission.  He said:

“Since joining the European Union in 1973, almost 80% of the funds that have come to Ireland through EU programmes have been to support agriculture.  At this time when Brexit and declining farming incomes are threatening the survival of many farmers, and in turn the future of rural communities, it is shocking to think that the EU is proposing cuts to the CAP budget.  Such a proposal indicates a failure on the part of the Irish government to insert our national priorities into the Commission’s deliberations on the MFF.

“We have warned the Irish government and farm organisations against signalling willingness to increase the proportion of national payments to the EU without, at least, first receiving confirmation that the CAP budget would be protected.  Instead, Leo Varadkar offered a blank cheque by suggesting that the Irish people would pay additional monies to Europe without guarantees as to how it would be spent.

“A reduction in the CAP of 5% will be felt very tangibly at farm and community level.  Direct payments are fundamental to the survival of many farms. Cattle and sheep farmers, for instance, are 100% reliant on direct payments to the extent that negative market income is eating into direct payments received.  The commission proposal will make very worrying reading for these groups and other farmers that operate in a volatile and often unprofitable market, to provide quality produce for our tables.

“What we now have is a proposal that the Irish people would pay significantly more to the EU budget but would see a reduction in the funding streams that are most important to us.  It is the latest failure on the part of Irish governments who, by their lacklustre and deferential approach to EU negotiations, see our priorities undermined. In the past the Irish people have been failed by poor fisheries, austerity and trade policies, among others.  Today, it is a fundamental shift away from the social and rural development EU programmes that enjoy widespread support among the Irish people towards an emphasis on security, military and defence spending which don’t.

“The Commission is, in effect, suggesting that agriculture be the sacrificial lamb in plugging the Brexit funding gap.  However Cohesion Funding and economic sovereignty have also been attacked here. Cutting the programmes that have the most impact in reducing economic inequalities, supporting rural areas and indigenous industries means that this Commission was never serious about moving towards a more social Europe.

“The Commission’s aim to increase Frontex’s budget by a staggering 30% combined with the proposal to increase defence research to €2bn by the end of the budget period shows that this is about priorities rather than savings.

“The increase in GNI contributions would not only plug the Brexit hole but also furnish EU coffers with around €90 billion more; this begs the question as to why the CAP is nevertheless being cut?

“The Commission is prioritising a military union over a social union. A fortress Europe rather than an inclusive Europe. And a federal Europe, rather than one which respects the sovereign rights of Member States to control their own resources.

“What Irish people will rightly be asking themselves is whether this is the EU that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want?  They will be asking how the Irish government have allowed such an extremist budget proposal to be drafted and published.  They will be asking how Commissioner Hogan permitted a proposal to cut direct farm payments by 5% to be made when they were told that his appointment was put in place to protect Irish farming interests.  And they will be asking how we’ve reached the point, where an elaborate EU PR exercise of providing Free Interrail tickets has become a budgetary priority over spending for economically disadvantaged regions.

“This budget proposal, coupled with the stated intention of the Commission to create additional ‘own resources’ (EU tax income) confirms that there is a power-grab at play and that the Irish government has, thus far, failed to protect Ireland’s interests.  

“The government and Commissioner Hogan have failed to be the strong voice we needed in this critical time, especially considering the backdrop of Brexit.

“I appeal to them, and to all Irish political voices, to reject this draft budget and to work for the protection of the CAP budget, with a more equal distribution of payments, and against the federalist, militarist and extremist agenda outlined by the European Commission.

“The Irish people have shown time and again that they want to be part of the European Union.  This budget, however, does not in my view reflect the type of EU they want. It is time our government started reflecting their wishes”.

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