European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has received support from cabinet to return to Brussels for a second term in office. The cabinet met on Tuesday to decide on Ireland's next Commissioner.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar commended Phil Hogan's work as Commissioner so far.
“In recent months, he has secured an aid package for Irish beef farmers, in recognition of the significant challenges facing the sector as a result of ongoing market turbulence related to Brexit," Varadkar said.
“His re-nomination is an endorsement of his work to date, and an indication of the importance we place on our engagement with EU institutions. We need our best people in Europe. The Government will now work closely with our colleagues in the EU to support him in securing the best possible portfolio in the new Commission.”
Where for Hogan now?
The news has been widely expected. Up until last week’s Mercosur trade deal, he was generally regarded as a good Commissioner for agriculture and one who understood farming.
He managed the dairy price crisis of 2015 well and his unfair trading practices legislation is seen as a long overdue first step in levelling the playing field between supermarkets, processors and farmers.
Even the CAP proposals and the 5% cut to the budget were seen as a credible performance in difficult post-Brexit circumstances.
However, it was the signing off on the Mercosur deal and a 99,000t import quota for beef that has really put him out of favour with farmers and there was speculation recently that the Taoiseach would not reappoint him.
In Brussels, Hogan is regarded as a success and the Irish backlash against Mercosur will further enhance his reputation in the college of commissioners. Now that he is back, attention will switch to what portfolio he will be given.
Up until last week’s Mercosur trade deal, he was generally regarded as a good Commissioner for agriculture and one who understood farming
Two-term commissioners are not particularly common though Franz Fischler did serve two terms either side of the millennium.
Hogan could return to agriculture but the thinking is that he may secure one of the vice-presidencies and one of the big portfolios.
Trade has been mentioned given his forceful performances on Brexit and it would put him centre stage in a future trade negotiation between the EU and UK.
He also has form on trade as the most travelled European Commissioner for Agriculture ever, leading global trade missions regularly to secure access to Asian and North American markets and promotion of EU food.
The other big portfolios are for budget and competition, both demanding and of particular interest to Irish farmers.
The budget dictates the level of CAP expenditure and while many EU countries are happy to increase budget contribution, including Ireland, there is huge opposition to doing so from the Scandinavian and Baltic states and this is led by the Dutch.
The outgoing Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, was involved with Ireland and the issue of Apple’s tax arrangement.
It was interesting that Hogan was on the side of the EU as opposed to the Irish Government on the issue, again demonstrating his credentials on being prepared to put the EU interest ahead of the national interest as of course all commissioners are obliged to do.
The current commission completes its term and the focus after the traditional August break in Brussels will be commissioners being presented to Parliament for approval. For Irish farmers who are angry about Mercosur, Hogan’s reappointment means that he will remain in post to be scrutinised on the delivery and implementation of the safeguards he has highlighted on in relation to the deal.
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