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Big Phil's finally been named in the Agriculture job (and farmers are delighted)

He’ll face a grilling from ‘Ming’ and Sinn Féin before the role is secure, but the Kilkenny politician’s widely expected to be confirmed as planned next month…

Image: Niall Carson

Updated at 23.32pm

PHIL HOGAN, THE former environment minister, was nominated as Agriculture Commissioner in the new European Commission line-up, as had been widely expected.

The official confirmation of incoming Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s new team was announced in Brussels shortly after 11am this morning.

There was some speculation in recent weeks that the job could go elsewhere, with Enda Kenny saying last month that the Government was prioritising a ‘jobs and growth’ position — but Hogan’s now been awarded the position the coalition had been lobbying hard to attain.

Needless to say, Irish farmers are delighted to have someone in Brussels who’ll accept their phonecalls:

 The Irish Government has secured a portfolio that is important for Ireland. As agriculture is our largest indigenous industry, having Ireland’s nominee in control of Agriculture and Rural Development is testament to our standing in Europe,” IFA President Eddie Downey said in a statement.

Juncker last week unveiled a list of 28 names set for senior positions within the Commission. They comprised 15 delegates from the centre-right, five liberals and eight socialists.

Brussels had been awash with speculation over which names would be assigned specific portfolios in recent days. A leaked chart, naming the former minister in the agriculture role fueled speculation that the farming job would go to Hogan.

“Ireland sees this appointment as securing a major economic portfolio which controls 40% of the EU Budget,” Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said in his statement this morning.

“This is clearly the appointment this Government had sought and been working on for the last number of months,” the Minister said, adding…

This Government has prioritised Agriculture and Food as a major economic driver for the Irish economy and this appointment will help deliver those targets.

The Taoiseach, meanwhile, said the appointment was testament to the Fine Gael politician’s “considerable experience and abilities”.

“Phil Hogan’s broad political experience will also equip him to make a significant contribution to make a significant contribution to the work of the Commission as a whole and to promote a Europe which puts the real needs of its people first,” his statement said.

The rocky road…

Hogan will face questioning before the European Parliament agriculture committee before he’s confirmed in the role, where he’s set to face a grilling on his record in Irish politics from the likes of Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy and Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.

The entire European Parliament then votes next month on the entire Commission line-up (it can’t veto individual members).

However, while Hogan may be given a tough time by Irish politicians in the session, it’s widely expected he will be confirmed as planned, and take office in November.

“I would say that given that given that he’s from the largest political family in the European Parliament and given that there’s a broad coalition between the two largest political families in the Parliament, the probability of him getting through is very high,” former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

For sure, Irish questions may be raised by Irish deputies — but bear in mind, this is a European parliament where you will have deputies from 28 member states, 27 of whom in terms of statehood will have no specific interest in whether water charges are up or down.

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Hitting the ground..

The Kilkenny politician is in for a busy time, as he begins his new job — and it’s reported he’s already started assembling his team.

“There are important decisions ahead for the agriculture sector, including the future direction of the CAP, excessive EU bureaucracy, climate change restrictions, EU retail legislation and damaging trade deals,” Downey, the IFA boss, said in his statement.

Irish and European farmers need a strong voice around the Commission table. Through our Brussels office, we will work with Commissioner Hogan and his officials to secure strong support for farm families into the future.

Patrick Kent, who heads the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association, has also welcomed Hogan’s appointment. He’s prioritising action to tackle meat industry regulation…

“Ireland’s importance in the EU agriculture sector is reflected in this appointment, and we wish Phil Hogan well in what will undoubtedly be a challenging role, given the many difficulties facing farmers,” Kent said.

The new commissioner must now consider regulation of the meat industry across the European Union as a matter of urgency.

The Commission

Over the next five years Juncker’s team will face challenges including boosting Europe’s stagnating economy and tackling the crisis in Ukraine.

The European Commission is arguably the most powerful institution in Brussels as it drafts EU legislation, polices national budgets and anti-trust regulations, and negotiates trade treaties.

(Includes text from AFP).

- First published at 13.49

Read: Leaked chart names Phil Hogan as Agriculture Commissioner … but can it be trusted?

Opinion: Big Phil wasn’t the best option for Europe… it should have been Lucinda

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