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Brussels, 20 July 2004
Negotiations with Russia on veterinary matters
Commissioner Byrne updated Ministers on the developments in relation to food exports from the EU to Russia. Technical meetings have taken place between the European Commission, some Member States and Russian authorities with a view to find agreement and a common understanding about the export modalities from the EU to Russia as of 1 October - the day Russia wishes to introduce new veterinary certificates for EU exports to Russia. The focus of the discussions is on safety guarantees for animal products exported to Russia, the disease status of the territory of the EU and the mechanism for issuing guarantees. Further technical meetings are planned for the beginning of August. Member States supported the approach of the Commission and the Presidency to continue for the time being on technical level to negotiate but agreed as well to move up to the political level if the current discussions do not progress further.
Putting on the market of the GM maize NK603
Ministers did not approve nor reject with qualified majority the application of putting on the market the GM maize NK603. Ministers were asked to approve its authorisation for the use as food after a thorough scientific assessment has confirmed that the modified maize would be as safe as conventional maize. Following the legislative procedure foreseen in such cases it will now be for the European Commission to approve the authorisation in the autumn.
Proposal for a Council Regulation on the European Fisheries Fund for the period 2007-2013
The Commission presented to the Council its proposal on the establishment of a European Fisheries Fund (EFF) which will succeed the current Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) for the period 2007-2013 (IP/04/922 and MEMO/04/181).
In his presentation of the Commission proposal, Commissioner Fischler indicated that about € 700 million per year will be available under the new fund to help reduce fishing effort, provide support to fishermen through social measures, diversify job opportunities in fishing communities and strengthen protection of the marine and aquaculture environment. He stressed that the new fund will be adapted to the changing needs of the fisheries and aquaculture sector and coastal communities, and summarised its added value in six main points.
The EFF will:
New rural development policy
Commissioner Fischler presented the Commission proposals for a new rural development policy after 2006. He stressed the need to reinforce the rural development policy and at the same time to improve and simplify its implementation.
The first major simplification is that we will move from currently 5 types of programming and 3 types of management systems to a single framework for rural development covering all aspects from programming to control. The large number of programmes, programming systems and different financial management and control systems in the current programming period have considerably increased the administrative burden for the Member States and the Commission and decreased the coherence, transparency and visibility of rural development policy. Secondly, the Commission wants to focus the policy on three main objectives:
Mr. Fischler underlined that the Commission wanted to build the future policy around three corresponding thematic axes and a LEADER axis to integrate the LEADER approach.
Mr. Fischler presented the proposal to reform the sugar market organisation. “There are two main reasons for the EU sugar sector to be reformed now: Firstly, we have to prepare the EU sugar sector now for the inevitable arrival of zero-tariff EBA sugar, as from 1st July 2009. If we don’t make it more competitive, the EU sugar sector will enter into an attrition scenario, in which even our best producing areas will have to drastically reduce production, with all the negative consequences that would have. Second, the new direction given to the CAP by the 2003 Reform, which was extended in April 2004 to even more sectors, has opened up tremendous opportunities for EU agriculture. If the sugar sector continues to stay out of that process, it will bring such a strong contradiction in our policy and cause such hardship that it would be an act of irresponsibility not to do something.”, Mr. Fischler stressed.
“First and foremost the EU sugar sector needs to improve its competitiveness and market orientation. But any reform has to achieve this so in a way which is consistent with the EU’s international commitments, in particular the EBA and ACP agreements. To do so, we must provide the EU sugar sector with the conditions for a sustainable future.”, he concluded
The Council decided to change the current import regime for rice with a fixed duty. The new import duty for husked rice is fixed at 65€/t and for milled at 175€/t. These rates guarantee sufficient protection for European rice and at the same time allow sufficient imports of rice into the EU, while fully respecting WTO rules. The change became necessary by the application of the reformed CMO for rice on 1 September 2004. The Commission tried hard to find an agreement until the last moment also with Thailand and the US, but an agreement was possible only with India and Pakistan. The agreements with India and Pakistan approved today maintain the existing level of import duty and, at the same time, introduce guarantees for the quality control of Basmati.
Forest law enforcement, governance and trade
The Council discussed the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade which sets out a new and innovative solution to the problem of illegal logging. The Action Plan aims to support efforts by developing and transition countries to strengthen governance, using the incentives for good practice offered by the EU internal market. To ensure the EU stops consuming illegal timber, the Action Plan proposes a licensing scheme for timber imports, to be implemented on a voluntary basis through partnerships with wood-producing countries. Mr. Fischler said that a Regulation to implement this voluntary licensing scheme had been drafted, along with a request for a mandate to negotiate partnership agreements with wood-producing countries. The Commission also concluded an extended impact assessment, and its proposals are due to be adopted on 20 July.
WTO agriculture talks
At the end of their meeting, ministers held an exchange of views on the state of play of the WTO farm trade talks. Commissioner Fischler explained the Commission’s position regarding the draft framework text of 16 July. Mr Fischler stated that the draft framework went in the right direction, but clearly needed more precision, especially regarding the common objective to effectively tackle trade distorting export subsidisation and competition.