Proposed appointment hailed by Scots farm industry and politicians

By Joe Watson

Published: 28/11/2009
Magazine: The Press and Journal – UK

A Romanian has been proposed as Europe’s new agriculture commissioner.

Dacian Ciolos will create history if the European Parliament confirms him in post as he will not only be the youngest commissioner ever appointed to Europe’s top agricultural job, but also the first eastern European.

Mr Ciolos, 40, is Romania’s former agriculture minister. He was the first to declare his candidacy when it was announced in September that current incumbent Mariann Fischer Boel would be standing down.

Mr Ciolos has been proposed by European Union president José Manuel Barroso. The appointment has surprised many as Mr Ciolos was not viewed as a big hitter in EU circles. Mr Barroso’s army of other touted commissioners include former French agriculture minister Michel Barnier who could take charge of internal market and service issues.

Farmers will be pleased to see the likely departure of Androulla Vassiliou, a Cypriot, as health and consumer affairs commissioner. She has been viewed as stubborn in her determination to foist electronic identification on sheep producers as well as impose legislation that has greatly reduced the armoury of agrochemicals to fight pests and diseases in crops. She too was behind new transport rules that had the potential to shut down Scotland’s livestock sector overnight.

She is likely to move to take charge of education, culture, multilingualism and youth. Her proposed replacement at health is John Dalli, from Malta, a seasoned politician.

Scotland’s farming industry and politicians yesterday welcomed Mr Ciolos as commissioner-designate.

Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead looked forward to working with him. He hoped he would follow Mrs Fischer Boel’s lead in visiting Scotland to “understand the need for future European agricultural policy to reflect our unique circumstances”.

NFU Scotland chief executive James Withers said the union would at the earliest opportunity be seeking a meeting with Mr Ciolos, a horticulture engineer who has a degree in the economy of agricultural development. He also has practical experience of farming as he worked on organic farms in Brittany, France.

The appointment of Mr Ciolos to 2014 covers a critical period as Europe prepares for further reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy and talks aimed at liberalising agricultural markets globally continue in the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Withers added: “Interestingly, we have a new member state in the agricultural seat for the first time and that will certainly bring a different perspective to the job.”

“The new commissioner also brings with him agricultural experience having been farming minister back home, where agriculture is obviously of huge importance.”

Speculation last night suggested that Mr Ciolos may well appoint a Frenchman as his senior civil servant in return for France supporting his nomination. That could prove interesting as it may well see current thinking on planned Cap reforms changed. Romania has been at the forefront of calling for a more equitable distribution of EU agricultural funding, the lion’s share of which currently goes to western European states.

SNP MEP Alyn Smith hoped the background Mr Ciolos had in farming would translate into a realistic approach to the hurdles that agriculture faced.

Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said he would only support the Romanian’s nomination if he could show he understood the need to secure a long-term future for the farming sector.


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