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MEMO/09/173

Brussels, 22 April 2009

Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of April 2009

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Luxembourg on Thursday 23 (starting at 15.00) and Friday 24 April, under the Presidency of Mr Petr Gandalovič, Czech minister for Agriculture. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.

Fisheries points will be dealt with on Thursday and Agriculture points on Friday morning.

The points on the agenda are:

Fisheries

The main fisheries-related items on the Council agenda are the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission's new initiative to boost European aquaculture and the EU Plan of Action on sharks.

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

On 22 April the Commission adopted a Green Paper launching a thorough review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Interested parties from the sector and the general public are invited to have their say on the future of European fisheries in a public consultation, which is open until 31 December 2009 and will cover every aspect of the current policy. The launch of the Green Paper marks the first step in a process which the Commission hopes to see culminate in a bold reform of the CFP (IP/09/617).

The aim of this review is to establish a system better able to deliver on its aims and, in the long run, benefit all concerned: fishermen, because they will have access to more abundant fish stocks; consumers, because they will enjoy greater access to high-quality sources of protein from EU waters; and people living in coastal regions, because they will reap the benefits of a more stable fishing industry.

Commissioner Joe Borg will present the Green Paper to the Council. Ministers are expected to have a first thorough exchange of views at the next Fisheries Council (25-26 May 2009)

Aquaculture

Ministers will have a first exchange of views on the Commission's Communication on a strategy to boost EU aquaculture, published on 8 April 2009 (IP/09/563).

As one of the world's fastest growing food sectors, aquaculture already provides the planet with about half of all the fish we eat and still has a lot more to give. The EU has put in place high standards to keep sustainable growth at the heart of aquaculture's approach and methods; its aquaculture industry leads the world in research and technological development. Yet this progress in excellence has not been reflected in production, which has stagnated in the EU, while there has been strong growth in some other parts of the world. In its Communication, the Commission sets out to address this state of affairs and give fresh impetus to sustainable growth to the EU's aquaculture sector. It looks at ways to improve the sector's competitiveness, sustainability and governance.

Building on the debate at this meeting, Council are expected to adopt Council conclusions in June.

Action Plan on sharks

Council is expected to endorse, through the adoption of Council conclusions, the Commission's Action Plan published last February for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IP/09/220). The aim of the plan is to ensure that effective steps are taken to help rebuild shark stocks wherever they are under threat, if necessary on a precautionary basis, and to lay down guidelines for the sustainable management of the fisheries concerned, including those where shark are taken as by-catch. The plan also includes measures to improve scientific knowledge of shark stocks and shark fisheries. The measures set out cover not only sharks, but also related species, such as skates and rays, and will apply wherever the EU fleet operates, both within and outside European waters. The Commission is also committed to working to ensure that the EU's action in international bodies and agreements is coherent with its policy on sharks at home.

The measures set out in this plan should result in better knowledge and more rigorous conservation measures to protect these species. This, in turn, will help protect the livelihoods of those fishermen who depend upon them.

Any other business

  • Piracy in Somalia (request by Spain)
  • Delays in European Fisheries Fund (EFF) spending by Member States (Commission request)
  • Eels and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (request by the Netherlands)
  • Gill nets/harbour porpoises (request by the Netherlands)

Agriculture

Simplification of the CAP

On 18 March, the Commission adopted the Communication "A simplified CAP for Europe - a success for all". Thanks to considerable progress already made in simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy and other measures still to be carried out, the Commission is confident that it will meet its objective of reducing the administrative burden arising from the CAP by 25 percent by 2012. This view is supported by the recently adopted opinion on agriculture of the Stoiber group. A new report highlights a number of measures taken over the past three and a half years which reduce red tape for farmers, companies involved in the food business and administrations, and promise to reduce annual costs by hundreds of millions of euros, which will render European farming more competitive.

The Communication, press release and further information on CAP simplification is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/simplification/index_en.htm

Based on a questionnaire from the Presidency, Ministers will have a policy debate on the Communication.

Aid to farmers in areas with natural handicaps

On 21 April, the Commission adopted the Communication "Towards a better targeting of the aid to farmers in areas with natural handicaps" paving the way for a new classification of these areas. With the help of scientific experts, the Commission has identified 8 soil and climate criteria as a basis for objectively and clearly classifying such areas. However, before presenting a legislative proposal, the Commission needs more data to assess their feasibility. Therefore, Member States are asked to provide simulations using national data to show how the criteria might work. The new classification system is likely to be in place in 2014; meanwhile the current system remains in force. This review exercise does not affect mountain areas (already classified based on objective common criteria) or areas with specific handicaps (e.g. islands and coastal areas) which are classified according to those specific handicaps.
The Communication, working documents and other information on the aid to farmers in Less Favoured Areas is available on the Commission webpage:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/rurdev/lfa/index_en.htm

Mariann Fischer Boel will present the Communication to the Ministers, followed by a first exchange of views.

AOB

  • Clearance of accounts (Danish request)
  • Request to increase the top-up for 2009 (Romania)
  • Situation on the milk market (Requested by Ireland)
  • Situation on the pigmeat market (Belgian

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