In nominating Phil Hogan to the European Commission, the Taoiseach asked President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker to give him a role that was in line with both his personal strengths and with Ireland’s EU priorities, and today expressed his delight that the President-elect has done just that.

He said: "The decision to designate Phil as the next EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development is testament to his considerable experience and abilities. It is also a recognition of Ireland’s sustained commitment to the EU, and follows on from our success during last year’s Presidency of the EU, including in securing agreement on the Common Agricultural Policy reform package.

"The CAP was the first common EU policy and is still at the core of the Union’s activity. It accounts for around 40% of the EU Budget.

"There are over 12 million farms in the EU with some 25 million EU citizens involved in agricultural production. In addition, agriculture provides an essential platform for the agri-food and drinks sector, the largest manufacturing sector in the EU, representing some 14% of manufacturing value added. It is a major contributor to economic growth and jobs in Ireland and across Europe.

"The CAP has underpinned the modernisation of European agriculture, making a vital contribution not only to economic growth in the EU but also to sustainable, long-term global food security, land management and the development of rural areas.

"There are serious challenges ahead. The most immediate task will be to ensure that the reformed CAP arrangements, due to enter into force next year, are implemented smoothly and sensitively. But the challenges do not end there. We are seeing how geo-political developments can unexpectedly affect the agri-food sector. There are both risks and opportunities arising from the current trade negotiations. And probably the greatest long-term challenge of all is to make agriculture environmentally sustainable.

"Phil Hogan’s broad political experience will also equip him 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. These are major responsibilities, but I have no doubt Phil will be equal to them."