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MEMO/06/81

Brussels, 17 February 2006

Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of February 2006

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 20 February (starting at 11 a.m) under the Presidency of Mr Josef Pröll, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, the Environment and Water Management of Austria.

Council will start with bio-energy followed by the food safety points. In the afternoon, the other agriculture items and the single fisheries item will be discussed.

The points on the agenda are:

Food Safety

Action Plan on Animal Welfare

General actions, but also concrete measures, to improve the protection and welfare of animals over the next five years are outlined in a new Action Plan on the protection and welfare of animals. The Action Plan aims to ensure that animal welfare is addressed in the most effective manner possible over the coming years, in all EU sectors and in EU relations with Third countries. For the period 2006-2010, five main areas of action are set out to meet this objective: upgrading minimum standards for animal welfare; promoting research and alternative approaches to animal testing; introducing standardised animal welfare indicators; better informing animal handlers and the general public on animal welfare issues; and supporting international initiatives for the protection of animals. Detailed background on each area of action is outlined in the Action Plan, in the accompanying impact assessment and a Commission working document, along with an indicative timetable for some planned initiatives (for press releases see: IP/06/64 and MEMO/06/21).

Ministers will have a first exchange of views on the Commission’s proposal on the basis of specific questions that have been put forward to facilitate this first discussion.

For more information on Animal Welfare and the Action Plan, see on the internet at: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/index_en.htm

Avian Influenza:

Commissioner Kyprianou will update Ministers on recent developments regarding Avian Influenza, and on measures adopted since the last Agriculture Council.

Agriculture

Sugar sector

On 24 November 2005, EU agriculture ministers reached political agreement on a wide-ranging reform of the Common Market Organisation for sugar, based on the proposal tabled by the European Commission in June 2005. The reform will enhance the competitiveness and market-orientation of the EU sugar sector, guarantee it a viable long-term future and strengthen the EU’s negotiating position in the current round of world trade talks. It will bring a system, which has remained largely unchanged for almost 40 years, into line with the rest of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The guaranteed price for white sugar will be cut by 36 percent over 4 years; farmers will be compensated for 64.2 percent of the price cut through a decoupled payment - which will be linked to the respect of environmental and land management standards and added to the Single Farm Payment; countries which give up more than half of their production quota will be entitled to pay an additional coupled payment of 30 percent of the income loss for a temporary period of five years; a generous voluntary restructuring scheme will be established to provide incentives for less competitive producers to leave the sector; intervention buying of surplus production will be phased out after four years.

For more information on the sugar sector reform see on the internet at: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/capreform/sugar/index_en.htm

Since the political agreement in November 2005, working groups and the Special Committee on Agriculture have finalised the texts. The Council will now formally adopt the sugar reform Regulations.

Strategic guidelines for Rural Development

On 5 July 2005, the Commission adopted EU strategic guidelines for rural development (see IP/05/845). Following political agreement by the Agriculture Council on the new Rural Development Regulation on 20 June, the guidelines set out a strategic approach and a range of options which Member States could use in their national Rural Development programmes. Since the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, Rural Development is playing an increasingly important role in helping rural areas to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Rural areas make up 90 percent of the territory of the enlarged EU and the new regulation broadens the possibilities to use Rural Development funding to boost growth and create jobs in rural areas – in line with the Lisbon Strategy – and to improve sustainability, in line with the Göteborg sustainability goals.

For documents and further information on the strategic guidelines, see: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/capreform/rdguidelines/index_en.htm

The Council is expected to adopt the guidelines.

Bio-energy

EU Strategy for Biofuels

The European Commission adopted on 8 February an ambitious EU Strategy for Biofuels, with a range of potential market-based, legislative and research measures to boost production of fuels from agricultural raw materials (see IP/06/135 and MEMO/06/65). The paper, which builds on the biomass action plan adopted in December 2005, sets out three main aims: to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries; to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving their cost-competitiveness and increasing research into ‘second generation’ fuels; to support developing countries where biofuel production could stimulate sustainable economic growth. Increased use of biofuels will bring numerous benefits, by reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel imports, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing new outlets for farmers and opening up new economic possibilities in several developing countries.

Biomass action Plan: Agricultural aspects

On 7 December 2005, the European Commission proposed an ambitious biomass and biofuels action plan. The detailed plan is designed to increase the use of energy from forestry, agriculture and waste materials (see IP/05/1546 and COM(2005) 628).

The main forms of biomass energy include transport biofuels (made mostly from cereals, sugar and oil seed crops and waste oils), domestic biomass heating (using wood and wood residues) and the burning of wood wastes and straw in power plants to produce electricity, heat or both.
For more information on Biofuels and biomass, see on the internet at:
http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/biomass/biofuel/index_en.htm and

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/res/biomass_action_plan/green_electricity_en.htm

The Council will hold a policy debate on both bio-energy items with the aim of drawing Presidency conclusions.

Any other business

  • WTO Negotiations: State of play
  • Cross Compliance
  • Cooperation in the field of agriculture-related research
  • Market situation and measures for supporting the poultry sector
  • Definition of vodka

Fisheries

AOB

Measures to combat illegal landings of Barents Sea cod

At the request of the Swedish delegation, the Council will discuss the problem posed by illegal landings of Barents Sea cod in EU ports. It is estimated that around 100,000 tonnes of cod is taken from the Barents Sea each year in excess of the quotas agreed between Norway and Russia, and recent media reports have alleged that a considerable proportion of this is imported into EU member states.


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