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Brussels, 25 February 2005
The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 28 February (starting at 11 a.m.) under the Presidency of Mr Fernand Boden, Minister for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development of Luxembourg.
The fisheries and “food safety” items will be dealt with in the morning. The main issue in the afternoon is a policy debate on rural development and on the financing of the CAP.
The points on the agenda are:
Transfers of fishing vessels to countries hit by the Tsunami in 2004
The Council will examine the Commission proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2792/1999 as regards a specific action for transfers of vessels to countries hit by the Tsunami in 2004. The proposal is part of the EU action to help rehabilitate the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the areas hit by the tidal wave in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004.
The Commission proposal involves the modification of existing rules under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) to open the way, under certain conditions and during a limited period of time, for a possible transfer of fishing vessels from the EU to the affected areas to help rebuild their fishing activity. Only small vessels, under 12 meters, not using towed gear and between 5 and 20 years old would be eligible. The grants to be allocated to EU vessel owners would be those currently available under the FIFG for the permanent removal of such vessels from the EU fleet. An additional premium of up to 20% is proposed to meet the cost of transport and to ensure that the vessels are equipped and seaworthy. The measure would cease to be applicable on 30 June 2006.
The measure would thus be limited in scope and in time and carefully co-ordinated with other rebuilding efforts. It would be implemented exclusively on the third country’s explicit request, and on condition that the assessment currently being carried out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in these areas shows that a transfer of fishing vessels could contribute to the rebuilding of the local fleets. It is proposed that a specific reporting mechanism is set up to ensure compliance with the various criteria identified as sustainability of fisheries has to be ensured.
The present proposal is part of a wider EU package of measures aiming to help rebuild the devastated fisheries and aquaculture industry which, after tourism, has been the most badly affected by the Tsunami.
The aid package also includes a framework for the provision of technical expertise to help identify reconstruction requirements and ensure the follow-up of the subsequent implementation of rehabilitation measures in the area. This framework was adopted by the Commission on 10 February (see IP/05/164).
Debarking for wood packaging
Ministers will discuss a Commission proposal to postpone by a year the entry into force of a requirement to debark wood used for packaging material. Despite the failure of the Standing Committee on Plant Health to deliver an opinion on 21 January, following intense discussions with the Commission and a meeting of COREPER, Ministers are expected to adopt the Commission proposal.
Although the debarking requirement is optional in the international standard for phytosanitary measures, the EU decided to implement this option with the aim of achieving better protection against the introduction of pests or diseases. A number of third countries, including the USA, made representations to the Commission that debarking presented a problem for the trade of a variety of goods packed using wood material. In order to allow time for further international technical discussions and scientific research to take place, the Commission considered it appropriate to postpone the requirement and has invited the Council to postpone the debarking requirement for one year, until 1 March 2006.
Council Directive (2000/29/EC of 8 May 2000), provides for protective measures against the introduction into the EU of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the EU. into the EU from 1 March 2005 onwards. A Commission Directive (2004/102/EC of 5 October 2004), amending this Directive, contains new requirements for the import of wood products into the EU from 1 March 2005 onwards. One of the requirements is to use debarked wood for the production of wooden packaging material.
Support for rural development by the EAFRD
On 14 July 2004, the Commission adopted a proposal to reinforce the
EU’s rural development policy and to greatly simplify its implementation
490). Reflecting citizens’ demands to focus on the environment, food
safety and quality, the Commission wants the EU’s rural development policy
to play a more important role in the new, reformed Common Agricultural Policy
It is proposed to increase EU funding, amounting to total EU funding of € 13.7 billion per year for 2007-2013. By introducing a single funding and programming instrument, the new policy will be much simpler to manage and control. Coherence, transparency and visibility will be increased. Member States and regions will have more freedom as to how to implement the programmes.
Based on a questionnaire from the presidency, Ministers will hold a policy debate on this proposal. No decision is expected at this stage.
Financing of the CAP
On 14 July 2004 the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation on the financing of the common agricultural policy (see COM(2004) 489). The purpose of the proposal is to establish a single legal framework for financing the common agricultural policy. To that end, this proposal sets up two funds: a European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF)(or FEAGA) and a European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) (or FEADER).
This draft regulation creates the legal bases for financing the different measures covered by those two funds, including the technical assistance necessary for the establishment and monitoring of the CAP. The financing of some measures under the CAP involves shared management between the Commission and the MS. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to specify the terms of the Commission's responsibilities for implementing the general EU budget and to clarify the MS' cooperation obligations.
The Council will hold a policy debate on the proposal.