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Brussels, 14 December 2007
The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 17 (starting at 10 a.m.), Tuesday 18 and (if necessary) Wednesday 19 December, under the Presidency of Mr Jaime Silva, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel (Agriculture and Rural Development) Markos Kyprianou (Health) and Joe Borg (Fisheries and Maritime Affairs) will represent the Commission at the meeting.
The two main items on the agenda of the Council are the reform of the wine sector and the fishing opportunities for 2008 (TACs and quotas). The Council is expected to reach political agreement on those two important dossiers.
The points on the agenda are:
Reform of the wine sector
On 4 July 2007, the European Commission adopted proposals for a wide-ranging
reform of the Common Market Organisation for wine. This followed more than one
year's discussion with all parties on the ideas launched in the June 2006
Communication. This aims to increase the competitiveness of EU producers, win
back markets, balance supply and demand, simplify the rules, preserve the best
traditions of EU wine production, reinforce the social fabric of rural areas and
respect the environment. Key to the reform will be making better use of the
budget (€1.3 billion), which will remain at the current level.
The Council is expected to reach a political agreement on the reform of the wine market. There are three big issues on which the Commission, the Presidency and most Member States still have to find consensus: Enrichment by sugar and must aid, national financial envelopes and the proposed end of the planting right system.
On 15 December 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal to update the EU spirit drinks legislation (see IP/05/1659). Based on existing EU legislation on spirit drinks, it largely enhances applicability, readability and clarity, by adapting the regulations to new technical requirements. The draft Regulation includes a well defined policy for spirit drinks, And TRIPS and WTO requirements are included to safeguard the protection of EU geographical indications on the world market. It sets out clear definitions for all spirit drinks.
A compromise has been found on the definition of vodka, one of the main points of discussion since the proposal was tabled.
The Council will now adopt the new spirit drinks legislation, thereby sealing a first reading agreement between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
On 12 December, the Commission proposed a 2 % increase in milk quotas beginning on 1 April 2008 to meet growing demand both within the European Union and on global markets (see IP/07/1913). The increase, a total of 2.84 million tonnes, would apply on an equal basis to the 27 Member States. It does not prejudge the ongoing review of the dairy market in the Health Check of the Common Agricultural Policy, where the Commission has suggested a gradual increase in quotas before they expire on 31 March 2015. The proposal is accompanied by a report on the outlook for the EU dairy sector, requested by the Council at the time of the 2003 CAP reform agreement. This shows that demand for milk has grown between 2003 and 2007 and is expected to continue growing between 2007 and 2014. The outlook for both demand and prices on the world market is equally positive. The report shows a 2 percent increase to be fully justified. The Commission hopes that the Council and Parliament will be able to reach a rapid decision to allow the increase to take effect by 1 April.
Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel will present the Commission proposal to increase milk quotas by 2 % to the Ministers.
Temporary suspension of import duties on certain cereals (See IP/07/1768)
Council Regulation fixing for 2008 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks applicable in Community waters and for Community vessels in waters where catch limitations are required
Every year at this time the Council is invited, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, to set Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the main commercial stocks in EU waters of the North-East Atlantic for the coming year. The current proposal does not include TACs and quotas for the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea or for deep sea stocks, which are established separately.
The Commission's proposal is based on the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and guided by the general principles laid down in its annual Policy Statement issued in June, in particular:
North Sea cod has recently benefited from the good 2005 year class, allowing a small increase in TAC to be proposed, and stocks of both northern and southern hake both continue to grow, demonstrating the benefits of long-term planning. However, a number of other stocks, including most other cod stocks and the main herring stocks, are in extremely poor condition, and the Commission has responded to the zero catch advice from scientists by proposing cuts larger than the 15% guideline. For anchovy and sandeel in the North Sea, which are both short-lived species, the Commission is again proposing that the fisheries remain closed until in-year advice is received on the stocks in the late spring.
Cod stocks outside the Baltic Sea
The improvement in the North Sea cod stock noted by ICES is an encouraging sign, but rests largely on one year class which now needs to be protected until it can contribute to the future of the stock. The recent high level of North Sea cod being taken as bycatch and discarded is, however, worrying and highlights the need to find the right accompanying measures to drastically reduce discarding. Reducing effort in fisheries which catch cod and accompanying cod-avoidance measures can help to achieve this goal. The Commission has therefore agreed with Norway an 11% increase in TAC for North Sea cod, and some accompanying measures to reduce discards.
In other areas, scientific advice for cod remains very pessimistic, and the Commission is proposing a cut in fishing possibilities by 25%. The Commission continues to review the Cod Recovery Plan with stakeholders, with a view to defining more closely targeted and effective ways of reducing fishing mortality on this species in EU waters.
Other stocks covered by multi-annual plans
Northern hake remains in good condition, with the stock at full reproductive capacity and a sustainable harvest rate. However, fishing mortality remains well above a rate which would provide maximum sustainable yield. Continuing to apply the terms of the recovery plan, the Commission proposes an increase of 2.5% in the TAC for 2008. The southern hake stock is also growing, thanks to two good year classes. The Commission is therefore able to propose an increase of in TAC of 15% while still reducing fishing mortality in line with the recovery plan.
Other stocks under long-term plans are, however, in less good condition, and here reductions in fishing mortality will lead to reductions in TACs. The 2006 year class of North Sea sole has declined significantly since the spring, and the Commission is therefore proposing a 15% cut in the TAC. For Bay of Biscay sole, a 10% reduction in fishing mortality implies an 8% reduction in the TAC for 2008. As for the two Nephrops stocks in Iberian waters, the Commission proposed that TACs be reduced by 15%, again in line with the recovery plan. STECF and ICES continue to estimate that real catches may be as much as 75% above the level of TACs authorised, providing further reason to take a prudent approach. Strengthening control and reporting continue to be priorities for this fishery.
Poor recruitment continues to mark the main EU herring stocks. In last week's negotiations with Norway, the Commission agreed a 41% reduction in the TAC for the North Sea stock. A substantial 32% reduction has also been agreed with Norway and the Faroe Islands for blue whiting, which continues to deteriorate (see MEX/06/1030).
The condition of Norway pout has improved on last year, and the Commission is therefore proposing a TAC of 50 000 tonnes in line with scientific advice, with a provision for in-year management. The outlook for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay remains poor, and again the proposal is to keep the fishery closed, subject to revision when data on spring abundance of the stock becomes available. Sandeel in the North Sea will likewise be subject to an in-year proposal on the basis of results from the exploratory fishery in the spring. The condition of sprat in the North Sea is stable, and the Commission last week agreed a 15% increase in the TAC for this stock, which is shared with Norway.
The Commission will inform the Council of its recent proposal to denounce the
current fisheries protocol with Mauritania and its intention to immediately
launch negotiations on a new protocol with a view to adapting the present
arrangements clauses more closely to the real needs of both parties.
Shark action plan
At the request of Germany, Council will discuss the ongoing development of an
EU Action Plan on Sharks. Within the framework of the Code of Conduct for
Responsible Fisheries, the FAO adopted in 1999 its International Plan of Action
for the conservation and management of sharks (IPOA SHARKS). This International
plan is voluntary, but all concerned States are encouraged to implement it.
Following discussions in CoRePer, two points are now on the agenda for adoption as 'A' points. These are:
Black Sea TACs and quotas
For the first time since the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union on 1 January 2007, fishing opportunities will be set at EU level for relevant fish stocks in the Black Sea. In 2008, TACs will be set for the two main commercial stocks targeted by the Bulgarian and Romanian fleets: turbot (100 tonnes) and sprat (15 000 tonnes). These catch limits are based on advice from a Working Group of leading Bulgarian and Romanian fisheries scientists who met in September, and from the Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) which has reviewed the working group's report.
While the sprat stock in the Black Sea is in a very good state, turbot have been under heavy fishing pressure for a while, and the TAC has been set at a low level in order to allow the stock to recover. The TAC for sprat is unallocated, while the TAC for turbot would be divided equally between the two countries. The proposal also sets out technical measures for the turbot fishery, stating that in a Member State where the minimum legal mesh size for nets used to catch turbot was less than 200 mm before the entry into force of this Regulation, nets with a minimum mesh size of no less than 180 mm may be used to catch turbot. The minimum landing size for turbot is set at 45cm total length. These measures harmonise the existing provisions which prevailed in Bulgaria and Romania prior to accession. The minimum mesh size is transitional, and will eventually be increased to 200 mm.
Bluefin tuna recovery plan
Council reached unanimous agreement in November on the Commission's proposal to transpose into EU law, on a permanent basis, the recovery measures for bluefin tuna recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) at its annual meeting in November 2006 in Dubrovnik, Croatia (MEX/07/0403). The Regulation goes further than the ICCAT plan, by requiring Member States to submit annual fishing plans in advance of the fishing season in order to ensure that the allocated fishing effort is compatible with the quota limits. The permanent adoption of both these measures will play a vital role in combating the over-fishing which has dogged this fishery, and thus laying the ground for the recovery of this vulnerable and historic stock.
Health and Food safety
Plant Protection Products
The Presidency will report briefly to the Council on progress made in the negotiations on the proposed Regulation for the authorisation of plant protection products. A political agreement on the proposed Framework Directive concerning the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides should also be finalised in this Agriculture Council.
Food Improvement Agents Proposals
On 28th July 2006, the Commission adopted a legislative package of proposals on food improvement agents. This package of proposals refers to food additives, food enzymes and flavourings. It contributes to the Commission’s simplification programme and also provides for harmonisation not only in their respective fields but also promotes consistency between the three related areas. An additional fourth proposal within the package will establish a single common authorisation procedure for the evaluation and approval of these substances. The four proposals of the food improvement agents' package are now being presented for political agreement.
Electronic Identification for ovine and caprine animals
The proposal to postpone until 31 December 2009 the introduction of compulsory electronic identification for sheep and goats was approved by Coreper and will be presented to the Council.
Commissioner KYPRIANOU will provide information to the Council on the latest developments on Avian Influenza.