Monday was dominated by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. This usually takes place once a month and so it was my second time attending. I was eager to hear the views brought to the table by EU Agriculture Ministers, especially in relation to the Organics proposal. Agrifish Council is also an opportunity for me to meet some ministers individually to better understand where they are coming from on different issues.
The agenda was very busy, including items such as the outlook for dairy and for pig meat in the coming months, and there was broad support for the Italian Presidency political guidelines on the aforementioned Organics proposal. I wish to pay tribute to the outgoing Italian Presidency for all the hard work put into this topic amongst many others, and I look forward to working with the incoming Latvian Presidency of the Council and with the European Parliament in 2015 on this proposal.
I took the initiative to speak about Simplification and the importance of keeping this issue high on the agenda and always in focus. There were also Presidency Conclusions in support of Young Farmers which will send an important signal to young people across Europe on farming as a viable future career.
This week also saw a further 6 Rural Development Programmes mainland Finland, mainland Portugal and the German regions of Sachsen and Sachsen-Anhalt (plus the German Rural Network, meaning that almost 22% of the budget has now been approved. My services have been working very hard on these and other programmes which are set for approval in early 2015.
Tuesday and on to Strasbourg where, after a final meeting of the College of Commissioners on the 2015 Commission Work Programme proposal, First Vice President Timmermans unveiled it at the plenary session of the European Parliament. He reiterated the Commission's focus on creating jobs and growth. He also outlined the intention to simplify the EU rules and eliminate red tape.
On Wednesday I took the opportunity of being in the Parliament to meet with Agriculture Committee MEPs from the EPP and ALDE groups to hear their ideas and issues. I look forward to continuing this regular contact with MEPs from across the political spectrum in 2015.
On Thursday I had a series of meetings with DG AGRI officials to further plans for our work agenda in 2015 and I received representatives from the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association. It was an opportunity for us to discuss the current state of affairs in the livestock sector.
At lunchtime I attended the launch of a most interesting book entitled “Ireland and Belgium: Past Connections and Continuing Ties”, which was formally inaugurated by Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD.
Today I was very pleased to announce that starting from 1 February 2015, a bilateral arrangement on Organic equivalency with South Korea will come into force. Organics continues to be one of the most dynamic production sectors in EU agriculture. This agreement will also provide new market opportunities in this key export market, one of my priorities as Commissioner for Agriculture. Significantly, it also eliminates the need for double certification and thereby simplifies and reduces red tape for EU companies.
As we approach the height of the festive season I would like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, or as we say in the "country I know best" Nollaig shona agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir!.