Phil Hogan, who has been appointed to the agriculture portfolio, is a former Irish minister for Environment and Local Government. He has a reputation in Ireland as a clever political strategist and campaigner who was fiercely loyal to his party leader, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny. While the 54 year old Hogan represented a rural constituency, he has never held an agricultural portfolio.
Agriculture and food exports play a significant role in Ireland’s economic recovery and Enda Kenny had strenuously lobbied Jean-Claude Juncker for the portfolio. Mr. Hogan’s appointment had been widely expected in Dublin where one government minister said it was a recognition of the role Ireland’s EU presidency played in securing a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) agreement last year.
With a total budget for 2014 to 2020 of more than 360 billion euro, agriculture represents more than a third of EU spending. Despite last year’s agreement on CAP until 2020, the new commissioner still faces some immediate and pressing challenges. They include concerns over the impact that medium to long-term Russian sanctions will have on the livelihoods of Europe’s farmers and fishermen and the implications for EU agriculture of any agreement in EU-US trade talks.
While the appointment of France’s Pierre Moscovici to the reconfigured Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs portfolio may signal a softening of fiscal austerity, Dublin will be hoping that traditional French criticism of Ireland’s low corporate tax rate will not be reflected in the new commissioner’s list of priorities.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s peace offering to David Cameron of the politically significant financial services portfolio for the UK’s Lord Hill will have been greeted with relief in Dublin. Ireland is one of Britain’s principal trading partners and the Irish government has viewed with increasing unease the growing tension between London and Brussels and the possibility of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Brian O'Connell Is ECFR's press officer. This article is part of a series of views on the portfolios and the people of the new European Commision, including Josef Janning's article on the importance of the new cluster structure. For the full collection, go here.
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