AS the European Union struggles to address its key economic policies, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) has stressed the need for progress on reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies in Europe while addressing a key meeting of the Party of European Socialists’ Presidency Group.
Speaking after the meeting attended by representatives from the main Social Democratic and Socialist Parties in Europe, Ms Ritchie, who is a member of the PES Presidency, said: “I made it clear to those attending, representing political parties throughout Europe, that the interests of the farming and fishing industry in Northern Ireland would be jeopardised if the reform of CAP and CFP continued to face delays, as a result of continuing difficulties with the EU budget and if a resolution was not reached in a timely manner.
“There must be a transition period for any CAP reform and this period should be as long as possible to enable income levels to be sustained – possibly an 18 month timeframe. This is particularly important as farmers are facing some of the most challenging conditions in recent history after one of the wettest summers on record and with the drought across North America and Russia forcing up feed prices.”
With the December EU Fisheries Summit only weeks away, Ms Ritchie backed the beleaguered fishermen of Northern Ireland and said: “The situation with the Fishing Industry in Northern Ireland must be stabilised. Each year the fishing industry faces punitive cuts from Brussels with no recognition of the sound scientific evidence that points towards sustainability in our fish stocks. It is vital that we move forward from this point to a meaningful degree of Regionalisation for Northern Ireland that will give our industry more control over its future.
“It is equally vital that the current European budget negotiations are resolved without further delay if CAP and CFP reform are to be completed during Ireland’s European Union Council Presidency which commences in January 2013.
“The completion of negotiations during the time of Ireland’s Presidency would be the correct and opportune time to protect the interests of our farming and fishing industry.”
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The Party of European Socialists (PES) is currently led by Sergei Stanishev, the former Prime Minister of Bulgaria. PES is a social-democratic European political party made up of representatives of national political parties from EU member states and other non-EU countries in Europe.