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Brussels, 27 May 2003

Outcome of Agriculture/Fisheries Council of May 2003

Part 1 : Agriculture

    Co-existence of GMOs

The Council held a debate on the co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops. Commissioner Fischler gave an update of the Commission's work.

"Only authorised GMOs will be grown in the European Union. All aspects related to environmental or health concerns are already dealt with in the authorisation procedure for GMOs. Therefore, what remains to be addressed, are the economic impacts related to the cultivation of GMOs. These are linked to additional farm management measures that may be necessary to keep admixture to a minimum, monitoring costs and, in cases where admixture above the threshold level occurs, potential losses due to a decline in the value of the crop.

Before implementing any measures for co-existence it is important to know what the facts are. For these reasons, the Commission organised a Roundtable on co-existence on 24 April. One of the most important conclusions of the Roundtable was that there is no unique set of measures for co-existence that is applicable across the whole EU. Any approach to co-existence has to take account of the vast diversity in farm structures, dominant crop types, climatic conditions and other regional and local production factors.

The expert opinion expressed at the Roundtable thus supported the Commission's view, namely that the best solution would be for Member States to take the initiative and develop and implement measures for co-existence according to their national or regional needs and circumstances. The Commission will support this process. I announced already at the Roundtable that the Commission will bring forward guidelines for the development of national and regional strategies to address co-existence before summer", Fischler declared.

    Situation on the European pig meat market

France raised ongoing problems for EU pig meat exports and asked the Commission to introduce export refunds. In response, Commissioner Fischler pointed out that the Commission had already introduced aid for private storage in order to overcome the weakness of pig meat prices. For this measure the EU has disbursed € 33 million.

"The reasons for this stagnation of market prices are multiple: weak consumption, the deterioration of the US Dollar, the recent introduction of import quotas by Russia. Given the strong competition from cheaper suppliers, it would require costly refunds hardly compatible with the limited budget left after the implementation of the last aid for the private storage scheme. Against this background it would be advisable to carefully monitor the market", Fischler said.

    CAP reform

The Presidency and the Commission held trilateral meetings with each of the 15 member states and the 10 acceding countries. The aim of these meetings was to prepare the ground for a compromise in the next council meeting starting on 11 June in Luxembourg. "While the road to a reformed CAP is still bumpy, we have made good progress. More and more Member States agree that reform is necessary, and that it is necessary now. It should therefore be possible to wrap the reform up in June", Commissioner Fischler commented.

Part 2 : Food Safety

    Feed materials - Written information from the Commission

2 delegations intervened to recall their support for the establishment of a positive list of feed materials and Germany announced a seminar on 4-5 September to discuss this issue. Commissioner Byrne replied that the European Commission prefers to develop procedures guaranteeing the safety of feed as it is set out, for example, in the proposal for feed hygiene. In addition, a positive list would not have prevented the past scandals (dioxin, nitrofen, etc.).

    BSE - Written information from the Commission

Text available :

    Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed - Written information from the Commission

See IP/03/750: Weekly reports of rapid alert system for food and feed go on-line.

    Protection of animals during transport (requested by Germany)

Germany recalled the sensitivity of this question, which is closely followed by the general public, and questioned the Commission on its intentions. Commissioner Byrne replied that this issue was a priority for the Commission, but a full analysis and intensive consultations were necessary. The draft proposal on revision of the animal transport legislation is now very advanced and will be put to the College in the coming weeks. He then underlined that his principal objective was to promote effective new measures to enforce enhanced animal protection rules, in particular for long distance journeys. He concluded by urging Member States to achieve a better enforcement of existing rules.

Part 3 : Fisheries

    Management of the fishing effort relating to certain Community fishing areas and resources and modifying Regulation (EEC) n°2847/93 ("Western Waters")

The Council held a policy debate on the Commission proposal to establish a revised effort limitation regime in the fishing areas of the so-called "Western Waters" (which extend from the Atlantic Ocean around the Canary Islands and the Azores to the North and north-west of Ireland and the UK). This proposal aims to eliminate legal uncertainty on the applicability of certain provisions of the current regulations following the expiry of the transitional period foreseen in the Act of Accession concerning Spain and Portugal, on 1 January 2003.

The discussion, based on a document prepared by the Council Presidency in agreement with the Commission, focussed on possible solutions to outstanding issues; in particular:

    - Introducing a simplified system to limit fishing activity by major fishing area within the Western Waters. Under such a system capacity ceilings would be set on a quarterly basis for each major fishing area in order to ensure that the overall capacity of the EU fleets operating in each area at any given time would remain limited. This system would prevent the overall fishing in the area to increase and avoid any major shifts of fishing effort within different fishing zones of the Western Waters. The main objectives of the Western Waters fishing effort regime would therefore continue to be met.

    - Establishing specific capacity limits (or, alternatively, a fishing effort scheme) in a biologically sensitive area to the South and West of Ireland, in order to protect juvenile hake. The concerned area, defined on the basis of scientific advice, has already been subject to restrictions on fishing activity in the framework of the emergency measures set up in 2001 to protect Northern hake. The proposed capacity limits would be applicable to the fleets of all Member States on a non-discriminatory basis.

    - Adapting control measures to the proposed simplified effort management regime by, for example, reducing the number of areas requiring hailing messages from fishing vessels.

    - Establishing a special protection zone for deep-sea stocks for local and traditional fisheries within an area of up to 50 miles around the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. Due to the particular circumstances of these outermost regions of the EU, Article 299 of the Treaty provides for special treatment of these regions under Community law. In the context of the CFP, these islands already benefit from a protected zone of 200 miles for fisheries of tuna and tuna-like species. However, such a wide protected zone does not appear to be necessary to safeguard the interests of local fishermen in respect of deep-sea stocks. Vessels from other Member States could be permitted to fish in the protected zones under certain circumstances and on a non-discriminatory basis.

Following the debate, the Council agreed that discussions on the proposal should continue at the technical level with a view to achieve an agreement as soon as possible.

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