EU commissioner designate for agriculture undergoes another grilling from MEPs

The European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has completed its second hearing of the Polish candidate for the agriculture portfolio, Janusz Wojciechowski, after its first hearing failed to reach a majority vote last week.

Political group coordinators from the committee met immediately after the first hearing on October 1 to assess the performance of commissioner-designate Wojciechowski – who is aiming to take the reins from the former commissioner for agriculture and now the newly-appointed EU Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan – after he was quizzed by MEPs on his candidacy for the brief.

It is understood that a large majority of the committee was not fully satisfied with the written answers and, as a result, the coordinators made a request to reiterate the hearing yesterday, Tuesday, October 8.

From the outset of yesterday’s 90-minute hearing, Wojciechowski stated that his aim is for European farmers to get better support to increase their competitive edge, and allow them to continue providing a secure supply of high-quality and healthy food to 500 million EU citizens.

He said that this requires proper funding and pledged that he would fight for a strong budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

He also made a commitment towards closing the gap between payments for farmers within and among member states.

MEPs quizzed the commissioner-designate once again about his views on the ongoing reform of the EU farm policy and on whether he was considering tabling new legislative proposals.

They also asked him how he intends to boost the environmental performance of the CAP, to help increase the number of young farmers in the EU, to fight land concentration and to ensure that direct payments reach genuine farmers.

Members wanted to know how the commissioner-designate plans to counter foreign countries’ protectionist measures, to finance market-related measures, and how to ensure that EU farmers and EU consumer-protection standards do not suffer any harm from free-trade deals.

Next steps

Based on the committee’s recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on October 17 if parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed.

If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the commission as a whole on October 23, in Strasbourg.