Ladies and gentlemen,

I'm very happy to be here with you today, and it's great to see many familiar faces in this room. Some of you were present in Cork last September but there are also many new faces. This is good news!

Our shared objective here today is to move from reflection to action. We must take advantage of the momentum and strike while the iron is hot.

If together we can generate concrete, practical and workable policy proposals, I pledge to do everything in my power to gain support for them at the highest level.

With that in mind, I am happy to announce a series of concrete actions that I intend to spearhead this year.

I have just launched a working group in DG AGRI which is exploring possibilities for a more performance-based delivery model, shifting the focus from compliance to results. This was a key recommendation of the Cork Declaration.

The objective is also to reduce EU administrative burden on beneficiaries whilst increasing flexibility and subsidiarity for Member States and regions, which as you remember was strongly emphasised in Cork.

My services will work closely with those of Commissioner Vella, to further develop strategies to address water sustainability issues, particularly in relation to nutrient management plans – another point stressed in the declaration.

But we don't have sit on our hands and wait - the future starts today and there are plenty of things we can do already now.

The European Network for Rural Development has just published an impressive list of actions to implement the Cork declaration. And it will continue to support this work through workshops, network events and thematic work.

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) is equally active. We are notably organising a workshop in Bratislava in early April which will directly address the biggest stumbling block for digitisation: data ownership.

In June, we are planning a big event in Ireland to prepare for Digital Innovation Hubs in the agriculture sector. These hubs will become a major driver for innovation and job creation in the rural economy.

We are organising jointly with the Portuguese authorities a major conference in Lisbon in October to discuss what current Rural Development Policy can do to stimulate innovation.

I am also pleased to announce that we will come forward with an action plan on smart villages. This will be a joint project between regional policy, transport, connectivity and agriculture. Our aim is to enhance synergies between different policies and embed this into strategies for rural areas. As part of this work we will also launch a pilot project on smart eco-social villages.

And last but not least, the CAP reform process has kicked off. I will shortly launch a public consultation with a view to publishing a communication in the autumn.  In this context, I would like to reiterate my commitment to ensuring that the aspirations and recommendations of the Cork Declaration are well reflected in the upcoming Communication on the future of the CAP.

These are some of the initiatives coming from my side in 2017. Now it's over to you! We need action on the ground to start making real headway

We need actions that truly reflect the bottom up, locally-led spirit of the Cork Declaration. I'm therefore very happy to have this opportunity to hear from stakeholders today. Thank you.