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Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of July 2008

European Commission - MEMO/08/500   14/07/2008

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MEMO/08/500

Brussels, 14 July 2008

Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of July 2008

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Tuesday 15 July (starting at 11 a.m.), under the Presidency of Mr Michel Barnier, French minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel, Androulla Vassiliou and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.

Agriculture points will be treated first followed by food safety and fisheries points in the afternoon.

The points on the agenda are:

Agriculture

Work programme of the Presidency

The French Presidency will outline the main priorities in the field of agriculture, food safety and fisheries for the second semester of 2008.

Health Check

On 20 May 2008, the European Commission proposed to further modernise, simplify and streamline the Common Agricultural Policy and remove remaining restrictions on farmers to help them respond to growing demand for food. The so-called CAP Health Check will further break the link between direct payments and production and thus allow farmers to follow market signals to the greatest possible extent. Among a range of measures, the proposals call for the abolition of arable set-aside and a gradual increase in milk quotas before they are abolished in 2015, and a reduction in market intervention. These changes will free farmers from unnecessary restrictions and let them maximise their production potential. The Commission also proposes an increase in modulation, whereby direct payments to farmers are reduced and the money is transferred to the Rural Development Fund. This will allow a better response to the new challenges and opportunities faced by European agriculture, including climate change, the need for better water management, and the protection of biodiversity.

The press release, proposal and further information on the Health Check is available on the internet at: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/healthcheck/index_en.htm

Based on a questionnaire from the Presidency, the Council will have a first policy debate on the Commission proposal. The four aspects of the proposal that will be discussed are: Modulation, market management mechanisms, dairy quota and cross compliance.

School Fruit Scheme

On 8 July, the European Commission proposed to establish a European Union-wide scheme to provide free fruit and vegetables to school children. European funds worth €90 million every year would pay for the purchase and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools, and this money would be matched by national funds in those Member States which chose to make use of the programme. This is the latest stage in the Commission's efforts to improve health and nutrition, as set out in the 'Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and related health issues'. The School Fruit Scheme aims to encourage good eating habits in young people, which studies show tend to be carried on into later life. Besides providing free fruit and vegetables, the scheme would require participating Member States to set up national strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives and the sharing of best practice. An estimated 22 million children in the EU are overweight. More than 5 million these are obese and this figure is expected to rise by 400,000 every year. Improved nutrition can play an important part in combating this problem.
More information on the Scheme available on the internet at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/markets/fruitveg/sfs/index_en.htm

Mrs Mariann Fischer Boel will present the new School Fruit Scheme to the Council.

Any Other Business

  • WTO – DDA Negotiations: Mrs Mariann Fischer Boel will give an update of the situation.
  • Synergy of forestry policies
  • Non-recoverable VAT on sustainable development investments

Food Safety

GMO – Soybean and cotton

The Council will examine two proposals for authorisation covering products related to one genetically modified soybean (A2704-12) and one genetically modified cotton (LLCotton25). Both proposals cover food and feed uses and not cultivation.

The Council can adopt or reject the proposals by qualified majority. In the absence of a qualified majority in favour or against the proposal, it will go back to the Commission.

Fisheries

Celtic Sea cod

Council will discuss an increase of the Celtic Sea cod TAC for 2008 on the basis of the agreement reached last December that this TAC would undergo an in-year revision if new scientific advice was forthcoming. After conducting a thorough analysis of all available data for this fishery, including contributions from a study carried out by the UK, Ireland and France, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) proceeded, on the Commission's request, to review the advice it had provided in 2007. In 2007, ICES advised that the fishery for cod in the Celtic Sea should be closed. Council instead agreed on a TAC of 4 316 tonnes for the area, a decrease of 9% compared to the 2007 TAC of 4 743 tonnes.

The new ICES advice indicates a higher stock size at the start of 2008 than the previous advice, featuring a higher abundance especially of the youngest fish that have not yet spawned. On this basis, the Commission can support an increase of the 2008 TAC to 5 174 tonnes, corresponding to a 25% decrease in fishing mortality in 2008. This reduction in fishing mortality is consistent with the approach embodied in the framework of the Cod Recovery Plan which the Commission is proposing to extend to Celtic Sea Cod (see IP/08/493). The Council is expected to adopt this point as an A-point.

Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Mauritania

Council will discuss the new protocol initialled in March under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Mauritania for the period 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2012 (see MEX/08/0314). This new protocol takes into account the changes in the European fleet operating in Mauritanian waters. It is also better adapted to Mauritania's current needs in terms of sustainable development of its national fisheries sector. It aims in particular at strengthening investment, including by European businesses, in the Mauritanian fisheries industry. The two Parties agreed substantial reductions in European fishing effort on sensitive species in order to reflect recent scientific advice. As a result, the overall annual tonnage allocated to the EU fleet will fall from the current 440,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes. The EU financial contribution has also been reduced to € 75.25 million per year from € 86 million under the previous protocol. At the same time, the amount earmarked for the development of the national fisheries sector and to promote sustainable fisheries in Mauritanian waters has been substantially increased to € 16.25 million from € 10 million.

The main point for discussion is expected to be the impact of the reduction in fishing possibilities on the allocation of fishing licences between Member States.

Restructuring measures to tackle the fuel crisis

Commissioner Joe Borg will present the package of restructuring measures to tackle the fuel crisis in the fisheries sector, proposed by the Commission on 8 June (see IP/08/1120) with a view to have a political agreement at Council. The proposed emergency package aims at promoting the restructuring of those segments of the European fishing fleet which have been hardest hit by the current fuel crisis, while cushioning its short-term social and economic impacts for those who commit to taking long-term action. The core of the proposal consists of a regime of temporary derogations to the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), allowing funds to be targeted quickly where they are needed most to address the underlying causes of the crisis, and provide short-term support to the hardest-hit segments of the fleet.

The package proposes a multi-dimensional approach to the current crisis, incorporating:

  • emergency measures, consisting principally of temporary cessation aid, to help fishermen cope with short-term pressures while the sector prepares a longer-term strategy;
  • a whole new range of restructuring measures for fleet segments which sign up to Fleet Adaptation Schemes, to be adopted at national level;
  • horizontal measures which fall outside the Fleet Adaptation Schemes, including increased EFF aid-intensity for fuel-saving equipment, expertise in relation to energy audits and restructuring plans, expanding the rank of beneficiaries eligible for early retirement under the EFF, and promoting research on fuel-saving technologies;
  • market measures under both the EFF and the Common Organisation of the Market, including a new price-monitoring observatory, and additional financial support for stakeholder-led initiatives, and
  • measures designed to facilitate the use of the EFF, so as to ensure fast and targeted action by Member States.

In addition, the Communication also examines possible changes to the de minimis rules for the fisheries sector, social aid in the form of decreased social security contributions, and the scope for additional funding outside of the EFF. In addition to the funds of the EFF the Commission pledges up to another €600 million from the EU budget to fund the specific temporary actions foreseen in the package.

The package takes the form of a Communication outlining the measures and the rationale behind them, and a proposal for a Council Regulation which would establish an ad hoc special, temporary regime which will derogate from some provisions of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) regulation for a limited period (up to the end of 2010).

The European Parliament gave its opinion on the package on 10 June. The Commission hopes that Council will agree on the package to allow its rapid entry into force to the benefits of the affected parts of the fishing sector.


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