European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, has accepted an invitation to visit Ireland following the commission’s decision on the nitrates derogation. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, met with Commissioner Sinkevicius during his visit to Brussels for the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting. The purpose of the visit is to showcase the efforts of Irish farmers in improving water quality and to lay the groundwork for the renewal of the derogation in 2026. Minister McConalogue emphasized the importance of all farmers working together through the Nitrates Action Plan to achieve this goal.
Earlier this month, Minister McConalogue stated that the EU Commission had indicated there was no possibility of re-opening the current commission decision on Ireland’s nitrates derogation. The derogation is set to expire on January 1, 2026, and the derogation limit will be reduced to 220kg organic nitrogen per hectare on January 1, 2024, in certain areas where water quality has not shown sufficient improvement. The EU Commission spokesperson acknowledged and appreciated the efforts made by Irish authorities and farmers to address water quality issues and comply with the nitrates directive. The date for Commissioner Sinkevicius’ visit to Ireland has not yet been confirmed.
In addition to the nitrates derogation, Minister McConalogue also raised concerns about the proposed EU-Mercosur and EU-Australia trade negotiations. The EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, agreed upon in 2019, has faced delays in ratification due to concerns raised by member states, including Ireland, regarding the potential impact of imports on the EU beef market. The commission had agreed to include an “additional instrument” addressing sustainability commitments in relation to the agreement. Minister McConalogue called for comprehensive binding commitments on climate change, biodiversity, combating deforestation, and labor rights in this instrument. He also emphasized the need to consider the cumulative impact of other free trade agreements, particularly in negotiations with Australia, to avoid negative effects on EU markets, especially for beef and sheepmeat.
Minister McConalogue’s efforts to address these issues demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to environmental sustainability and the protection of its agricultural sector. The visit by Commissioner Sinkevicius will provide an opportunity to showcase the progress made by Irish farmers in improving water quality and reinforce the importance of continued collaboration and adherence to the Nitrates Action Plan. As discussions on trade agreements continue, Minister McConalogue’s call for comprehensive sustainability commitments reflects the government’s commitment to protecting Irish farmers and ensuring the long-term viability of the agricultural industry.