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Phil Hogan nominated for a second term as Ireland's European Commissioner

There had been speculation that Hogan would lose the Taoiseach’s support after the fallout from the Mercosur trade deal.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has confirmed his intention to nominate Phil Hogan for a second term as Ireland’s representative in the European Commission.

Each member State of the EU nominates a figure to become a commissioner; most European countries choose a former minister or former head of state.

The President of the European Commission chooses which portfolio each commissioner should get – these are effectively the ministers of the European Union. Hogan in his previous term served as the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

In the past two weeks, Hogan has faced criticism for not representing beef farmers adequately during the EU’s negotiation of the trade deal with Mercosur – a customs union between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. 

The Irish Farmers’ Association and climate change activists criticised the trade deal, which won’t be ratified by the European Parliament for another two years, and media reports indicated that it could have hampered the senior Fine Gael representative’s chances at being reappointed to the European role.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy called Hogan’s reappointment a “missed opportunity” and said that he has “failed to address the inequalities in European agriculture or to stand up for Irish farmers when required”.

His recent defence of the disastrous trade agreement with the Mercosur bloc shows that he was always more concerned about placating EU power-brokers than protecting agriculture interests or the economies of countries such as Ireland.

But speaking today, the Taoiseach said:

“Over the past five years, Commissioner Hogan has done an excellent job as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. He has highlighted the interests and concerns of the agricultural sector across Europe.”

The Irish Whiskey Association welcomed his re-appointment, saying that he’s had “great success in opening global markets to European food and drink products”.

The IFA president Joe Healy said the re-appointment of Phil Hogan as Ireland’s EU Commissioner is an opportunity for Ireland to secure a portfolio that allows Ireland to have the maximum influence on EU policy.

“Commissioner Hogan will be facing some very serious challenges, particularly from the next CAP Budget and reform; Brexit; trade deals; and climate action,” he said.

While farmers are very angry and frustrated with the EU Commission over the Mercosur trade deal, overall it has been important to have a strong Irish voice steering agricultural policy at EU level.

The Taoiseach continued: “Phil is widely respected in Brussels and across the EU as a skilled negotiator and someone who builds alliances. He has also been a very important voice on Brexit, ensuring that his colleagues in the Commission have a keen understanding of the potential negative impact that the UK’s exit will have on Ireland and other member States.

In recent months, he has secured an aid package for Irish beef farmers, in recognition of the significant challenges facing the sector as a result of ongoing market turbulence related to Brexit.

“His re-nomination is an endorsement of his work to date, and an indication of the importance we place on our engagement with EU institutions. We need our best people in Europe. The government will now work closely with our colleagues in the EU to support him in securing the best possible portfolio in the new Commission.”

It’s likely that Hogan will retain his portfolio as Agriculture commissioner, or either be given the more influential portfolio of Trade – which would be a massive diplomatic win for Ireland if Brexit negotiations continue.

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