This week has been a week full of good tidings, and just in time for the holiday period!
On Monday I met Irish Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke to discuss possibilities for an enhanced role of a reformed Seanad in EU scrutiny. This would tie in with the Juncker Commission priority of greater engagement of national parliaments in the EU affairs.
Later on, I received the Cypriot Agriculture Minister, Nicos Kouyialis and on Tuesday I had a productive meeting with the Greek Minister of Rural Development and Food, Georgios Karasmanis.
On Wednesday I was pleased to be able announce a €10.7 million support measure for Finnish dairy farmers in light of the difficult situation caused by the Russian export ban. As Commissioner for Agriculture I feel obliged to stand in solidarity with the farmers in Finland and the Baltic states who are feeling the brunt of geopolitical issues in relation to the Russia/Ukraine crisis.
It was nice to welcome Kieran O'Dowd and Edmond Connolly President and CEO Macra na Feirme, the Irish rural youth organisation, to my office. I value these exchanges with the future generations of European farming and rural life. We discussed the crucial matter of land mobility in Ireland and the work done by Macra to facilitate this process.
At the weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners we carried out some further work on the 2015 Commission Work Programme. Afterwards we travelled to Luxembourg for the official swearing in ceremony at Court of Justice of the European Union. I chose to take my Oath of Office as Gaeilge.
Netherlands was the destination on Thursday for a very important day of visits. I was warmly welcomed by Agriculture Minister Sharon Dijksma and together we toured the horticultural greenhouse at Koppert Cress in Monster. While there I met with a group of Dutch Agri-food stakeholders, including the President of the Dutch Young Farmers Eric Pelleboer. I also had the honour to speaking to the Committee of Economic Affairs in the Tweede Kamer of the Dutch Parliament- as I have already mentioned, engagement with national parliaments is a big priority for me and the College as a whole. I spoke of how I consider Dutch agriculture to be a benchmark for Europe in terms of productivity and exports. It is amazing to consider that one of the smallest member states of the EU in terms of land area is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural produce. The Netherlands is responsible for 17% of total vegetable and horticultural production in the EU alone.
This morning I received a delegation of Irish Farmers Association, including President Eddie Downey.. We had a frank and fair discussion on milk, rural development and fairness in the food.
Today I made my first appearance in the European Commission press room to present a press release on the approval of the first three Rural Development Programmes (Denmark, Poland and Austria). Rural Development is part of the Growth, Jobs and Investment priority of the Juncker Commission and for instance, the Polish RDP alone is expected to create 22,000 jobs in rural areas. The multi-annual programmes are backed by EUR 95.6 billion of total EU funding over the period 2014-2020 through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). I continued the day with a series of meetings with officials in DG AGRI to progress the Simplification agenda.
I had some good news for fruit and vegetable farmers this week. There will be continued market support into 2015 as I proposed an extension of emergency market measures. These measures have helped ease the market pressure for fruit and vegetable growers following the Russian ban. However, continued support is necessary as a safety net for growers who have not been able to find alternative outlets so far.
5 days, 3 countries, many positive encounters and announcements - it certainly has been another active week on the job!