1. What do you see as the committee's main achievements in the first half of the current mandate and what do you see as its principle priorities for the remaining two and a half years?
In the first half of the new term, among the most important areas of interest for the agriculture and rural development committee will be counteracting the effects of the various crises in the dairy, pig meat, fruit and vegetables, and cereals sectors.
These were caused by factors such as the abolition of the milk quota system, drops in demand, adverse weather conditions and, to a large extent, the Russian embargo on food from the EU introduced in August 2014.
Moscow's ban mainly affected the eastern EU countries. and I was among the first to raise, on behalf of the AGRI committee, the need to abolish the embargo which was primarily of a political nature. Another important challenge was connected to the simplification of the common agricultural policy for the farmers and state administrations. The European Commission's proposal has made this topic a priority for the present term.
We have devoted much time to studying the impact of ongoing trade agreements (such as TTIP with the USA, CETA with Canada and the agreement with Mercosur countries on EU agriculture. Towards this goal, there was a series of meetings and hearings organised with the main EU negotiators as well as representatives of our trade partners.
It was also thanks to our insistence, that the European Commission published at the end of 2016 a report on the cumulative impact of negotiated trade agreements on the EU agricultural sector.
Our main priority for the second half of the term is, of course, CAP reform for the post-2020 period. In the meantime, our work will concentrate on the midterm review of the budget and the CAP in the scope of the, so called, Omnibus CAP simplification proposal, and guaranteeing that it will simplify the CAP without decreasing budget funds for agriculture, especially keeping in mind the need to address crises in agriculture that seem to now occur more often.
2. What do you believe are the main challenges and issues facing the committee for the remainder of the current legislature?
As I have already mentioned, for the second half of the term, in the pipeline there are very important tasks to be done in and around post-2020 CAP reform, but before that we need to effectively go through the midterm review that will use the so-called Omnibus proposal to assess the implementation of the reformed CAP adopted in 2013.
Therefore, of great importance will be the continuation of the ongoing CAP simplification activities which is one of our main priorities alongside studying the impact of trade agreements on the state of European agriculture and limiting crisis situations in primary markets.
As far as the upcoming CAP reform is concerned, I would like to underline that any work must be preceded by extensive public consultations with consumers and farmers as well as expert analysis to assess the situation.
Based on these findings, it will become possible to formulate targets for the new CAP after 2020. These will then be subject to further work carried out by the European institutions and member states along with union, and cooperative consultations.
The AGRI committee will continue to push to maintain an appropriate CAP budget in order to boost innovation and the competitiveness of our agriculture on global markets, while ensuring food security at national and European levels.
3. What, if any, impact will Brexit and other events such as national elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany, have on the committee's work?
Of course, we are aware that these events may have serious implications for the CAP and, therefore, our committee's work, especially in budgetary terms. That is why we are analysing different scenarios and are looking to best prepare for different options.
In terms of Brexit, for many months now, this topic has regularly been discussed, to a large extent thanks to our members from the mainland UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
In our opinion, the UK leaving the EU cannot limit the capacity of other member states to conduct an effective common agricultural policy, in line with the objectives set in the treaties.
Because of that, we are trying to underline, that a proper financing for the CAP must be maintained, regardless of whether Brexit will actually happen.
4. How can citizens become more engaged in what your committee does and how can you better communicate the work of the committee to voters and stakeholders?
We want our citizens to be further involved in the process of formulating the post-2020 CAP reform. Broad consultations are needed in this regard, that incorporate both farmers and consumers. MEPs also have an important role to play in this regard as they communicate their activities, explain the intricacies of the CAP and present challenges. We also know how CAP simplification is important for society, particularly for farmers and the relevant administrative bodies.
5. Are you concerned by the apparent reduction in recent weeks and months in the legislative output of the Commission due to the Refit exercise and do you expect this to continue? Will this impact on your committee's workload and if so, how?
It is true, that the Juncker Commission has significantly limited the number of legislative proposals, which also impacts the work of our committee. However, I do not think that this is very problematic for our committee members.
Thanks to the smaller number of legislative projects, we were able to concentrate more on areas such as the CAP reform implementing reports, and on more intensive analysing of EU trade agreements from an agricultural standpoint.