Brussels, 16 July 2002
Outcome of the Agriculture Council, 15 July 2002
Presentation of the CAP mid-term review
The Council held a public debate on the Commission proposals about the mid-term review. Commissioner Fischler stressed that the EU needed a competitive farming sector that is kind to the environment, provides consumers with safe, high-quality food products and guarantees farmers a fair income. "As it stands, however, the common agricultural policy cannot meet these goals. So we cannot afford to take a "wait-and-see" approach - we must take action now to adapt and develop policy.", he declared.
Fischler rejected criticism that the Commission had exceeded the terms of what was agreed at the European Council in Berlin. "Such comments forget that the Berlin decisions did not rule out any new proposals from the Commission, they merely set the minimum scope of the mid-term review. It is also forgotten that after Berlin a further summit was held in Gothenburg at which the heads of state and government called for agricultural policy to be made more sustainable. Above all, we can no longer afford to ignore the growing loss of public confidence in the present version of the CAP in the wake of a seemingly never-ending series of food scandals and crises such as BSE and foot and mouth.", he commented.
The Commission continues to believe in the European model of agriculture. All we are doing is suggesting a series of measures that will make it easier to put into practice. Everyone agrees that for this to be possible, we must first expand rural development policy.", he said.
"A third criticism is that support for farmers under the CAP is increasingly coming to resemble a form of welfare, and is making farmers more and more remote from the market. The opposite is in fact true - in the past farmers were dependent not on real markets but rather on a trade-distorting artificial market based on intervention stores. In future, however, they will be freed to produce the goods with the best prospects on real markets.", the Commissioner continued.
He underlind that the mid-term review made it much more likely that in the next WTO Round the EU woud gain acceptance from our trade partners for our demands such as recognition for origin labelling, animal welfare, food safety and the precautionary principle.
"Why make changes now and not in 2006?", Fischler asked. "Simply because the changes are urgent. Because far from being unilateral concessions on our part, these reforms will contribute to a good negotiating basis in Geneva. And because the acceding countries also want to know what to expect."
Modification of EU import regime for cereals and rice
Commissioner Fischler presented the Commission recommendation to open negotiations for the modification of EU import regime for rice and cereals. The import regime for cereals and rice is no longer operating satisfactorily. "I know that some of you have insistently requested short-term, immediate measures. But be under no illusion: the Commission will not accept Black Sea or Odessa quotations for the simple reason those do not exist. I can't base such an important regime on unreliable, uncontrolable price quotations, coming from unspecified or doubtful or interested parties. I am proposing to you a way to address the problems on our import regime for cereals and rice. It is the fastest and most appropriate means available to us, fully in conformity with our international commitments. It is your responsibility to decide on whether or not to accept my proposal now.", Fischler told the ministers.
The Presidency concluded that the matter was sent to the Special Committee of Agriculture and the Article 133 Committee for rapid discussion.
The Presidency recalled the state of play of the discussions at Council level on the Commission proposals to combat zoonoses (see IP/01/1167).
Commissioner Byrne acknowledged the work achieved in the recent months and indicated his support for the Presidency's approach in the context of an overall compromise which would enable a Common Position to be reached in the autumn. He welcomed the emerging consensus, and noted the double challenge of reaching agreement on legal texts in Council, and then finding agreement with the EP.
Discussions on the proposal will now continue in COREPER.
European Food Safety Authority
Mr Byrne explained the current situation. The Management Board was nominated, and the process of nominating the Executive Director has started.
White paper on Food Safety
Commissioner Byrne presented an update on the proposals in the White paper on Food Safety. 51 out of the 84 actions have now been adopted by the Commission. On the 33 remaining actions, it is expected that most of the important measures will be adopted by the end of this year.
Information on the White paper on Food Safety is available on the internet at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/intro/index_en.html
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) - Differential tests
Belgium urged progress on the use of differential tests to enable distinction to be made between FMD infected and vaccinated animals.
Commissioner Byrne noted progress made in OIE, and ongoing research, and that the revision of the EU FMD regulation should be proposed by the Commission to Council and EP in September.
Information on presence of MPA in feed
On the request of the Dutch delegation the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Germany gave a brief report on the situation. Commissioner David Byrne said: "Unfortunately, we again have to deal with an incident which should never have happened and which should have been avoided. I would like to point out that the Commission takes this incident very seriously. It is unacceptable that hormones should be present in feedingstuffs and apparently also in soft drinks. In the framework of the Standing Committee, it was indicated that the origin of the contamination lay in the fraudulent exchange and disposal of pharmaceutical waste. Subsequent discussions in this framework have been very useful in exchanging information and getting to the root of the problem.
Feed and food operators need to be more aware of their responsibilities in this area. Feed operators should ensure that the raw materials that they buy are safe."
He called upon the Competent Authorities in the Member States to exercise stricter control in ensuring a high level of protection of consumer health. "I have asked Member States to continue their investigations in order to trace potentially contaminated feed, to place under surveillance establishments concerned and to test potentially affected animals, in order to ensure that products placed on the market do not constitute a risk to public health. In particular it is necessary to ensure that all contaminated feedingstuffs are traced, withdrawn and safely disposed of. All necessary steps are taken to protect public health. Member States assure me that such steps are in fact taken.
Byrne also signalled forthcoming proposals of the Commission on controls for food and feed and feed hygiene.