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MEMO/09/284

Brussels, 19 June 2009

Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of June 2009

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Luxembourg on Monday 22 (starting at 11.00) and Tuesday 23 June, under the Presidency of Mr Jakub Šebesta , Czech minister for Agriculture. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel, Androulla Vassiliou and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.

Council will start with Agriculture points. SANCO issues will be dealt with on Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning will be devoted to Fisheries points. On Monday, over lunch, Ministers will discuss the milk market situation.

The points on the agenda are:

Agriculture

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

The Council will adopt Conclusions on this subject.

Agricultural Product Quality

Action is needed to improve communication about the qualities of agricultural products — to help reconnect farmers with consumers. Quality labelling schemes must also be easier for people to use and understand and EU policy must be more coherent. These are the main recommendations of a European Commission Communication on agricultural product quality policy, adopted on 28 May. EU farmers meet some of the most stringent farming requirements in the world regarding environmental protection, animal welfare and the use of pesticides and veterinary drugs. In addition, they use their expertise and skill to give their products individual qualities that add value. But do farmers get a fair return for their efforts? Do consumers get accurate information about product characteristics and farming attributes?

The Communication, other documents as well as more information on the EU agricultural product quality policy is available on the net at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/policy/communication_en.htm

The Council is expected to draw up conclusions on the Commission Communication.

Future of the CAP

As a follow-up of the Informal Council meeting in Brno, the Presidency has prepared draft conclusions on the future of the CAP after 2013, in particular regarding the direct payments system.

AOB

  • Obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market (Progress report)

  • Agriculture and Climate Change (demand from the Netherlands)

  • Conference of EU paying agencies – Conclusions (Information from the presidency)

  • Balance within the agri-food chain (French demand)

Food safety and health

Proposal for a regulation regarding the humane treatment of animals at slaughter

The Council is expected to discuss and adopt a Commission proposal for a regulation on the humane treatment of animals at the time of killing . The regulation provides a series of measures to ensure animals are humanely treated when they go to slaughter. Slaughterhouses, for example, will have to appoint a specific person responsible for animal welfare and ensure that their staff is properly trained and certified. Manufacturers of stunning equipment will have to provide instructions for ensuring proper animal welfare and a number of technical standards are updated in view of scientific progress. And Member States will have to create scientific support to provide permanent and competent assistance to official inspectors. The authorities will also be more accountable to the public when they perform mass killings in case of contagious diseases.

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Information on active substances in plant protection products

The Czech Presidency will inform the members of Council about a number of active substances used to date in plant protection products.

Fisheries

Sustainable Development of EU Aquaculture –Council conclusions

Following on from their discussion in April, Ministers will adopt Council conclusions on the Commission's Communication on a strategy to boost EU aquaculture, published on 8 April 2009 ( IP/09/563 ).

The Commission's communication provides a new political impetus for the future of EU aquaculture and outlines a range of measures to be taken by public authorities at all levels to allow this sector to achieve its full potential. These measures are related to 3 strategic objectives: promoting competitiveness; ensuring sustainability; and improving both the sector's image, and its governance framework.

The Commission welcomes the strong positive support which Council has already expressed for its initiative, and looks forward to working with the Council, the Member States and other relevant public authorities to translate the Council's Conclusions into concrete action.

Control of the Common Fisheries Policy – policy debate

The Council will continue its discussion of the Commission's proposal to create a completely modernized system for inspection, monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy throughout the market chain, from net to plate ( IP/08/1710 ).

Harmonised inspection procedures and higher standards would ensure uniform implementation of control policy at national level, while taking account of the diversity and specific characteristics of different fleets. There will be measures to promote a culture of compliance throughout the sector, including simplification of the regulatory framework, and the introduction of harmonised deterrent sanctions. The capacity of the Commission to intervene to ensure that the rules of the CFP are being effectively implemented and enforced by the Member States will also be strengthened. In general, all aspects of the control and monitoring of fisheries activities would be simplified and made more efficient by the new rules. The reformed system will contribute to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources, and create the conditions for an economic recovery of the fisheries sector and the communities depending on fishing. The Commission's proposal has received broad support from the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, which have all adopted reports on this issue over the last two months.

So far, debate in Council has ranged across a number of issues, including: exemptions for small-scale fisheries and specific fisheries; margin of tolerance in catch reporting; recreational fisheries; traceability; the inspection of vessels outside waters of the inspecting Member State; sanctions; the powers of both the Commission and the Community Fisheries Control Agency; and the date of entry into force.

Council will debate these and other issues on the basis of questions proposed by the Presidency, focusing on the introduction of new control instruments and means, the harmonisation of sanctions, and the powers of the various EU bodies involved.

Consultation on Fishing Opportunities for 2010 – exchange of views

Council will hold an exchange of views on the Commission's consultation document on fishing opportunities for 2010.

On 12 May, the European Commission presented its views on how fishing possibilities should be set in EU waters for 2010. In this document, the Commission points out that progress in stock recovery has been slow to materialise since the 2002 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. One of the reasons for this is that fishing opportunities have been consistently set at levels which were too high for the fish stocks to sustain. As a result, more than 80% of EU stocks are now overfished, compared with a global average of 28%. At the same time, there have been a number of positive initiatives, such as the decisive shift to long-term management in a number of fisheries, which has begun to bear fruit. For 2010, the Commission has therefore proposed greater flexibility in the way in which TACs can be changed from year to year, to enable recovery measures for overexploited stocks to be implemented more effectively. The paper also includes a discussion of the Commission's plan to eradicate discards and the implications of the possible entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The principles and analysis outlined in this document will provide the basis on which the Commission will make specific proposals for 2010 fishing opportunities later in the year.

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Simplification and improvement of the Common Fisheries Policy – information from the Commission

The Commission will present a Communication summarising the results of the Action Plan to simplify and improve the Common Fisheries Policy over the period 2006-2008.

Since the last Progress Report of November 2008 was delivered, there have been a number of new initiatives worth mentioning, including the repeal of a number of obsolete legal acts; the recasting of the Commission Regulation on the Common Market Organisation in fisheries and aquaculture products; and the adoption of a Commission Regulation on conversion factors for fish weight. The Commission has also taken concrete steps to intensify consultation with stakeholders and has improved the quality of the Impact Assessments carried out for important new measures.

Simplifying the Common Fisheries Policy remains central to the Commission's work, and lies at the heart both of the proposed new Control Regulation, discussed above, and of the debate on the future Reform of the CFP that was launched in April.

Bluefin tuna – information from the Commission

Commissioner Borg will update Council on the so far positive carrying out of the 2009 fishing season for bluefin tuna in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and of the Specific Control and Inspection Plan established by the Commission in collaboration with the Community Fisheries Control Agency. This year, the fishing season for purse seiners has been closed in due time by Member States. As the more artisanal fleet has until the end of the year to fish its quota, the European control campaign will continue until then in order to support Member States' obligation to comply with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas' (ICCAT) recommendations. The Commission will continue to carefully monitor the situation and to carry out its analysis in terms of catch and trade figures. If any discrepancy in figures or any sign of overfishing is uncovered, the Commission will be ready to take appropriate measures within the ICCAT to ensure compliance by all concerned.

At its annual meeting in Marrakesh in November 2008, ICCAT approved an amended recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the Atlantic and Eastern Mediterranean. Although the plan was not due to come into force until June, the EU was determined that 2009 should be the "year of compliance", and has fully implemented all the measures contained in the revised plan in time for the 2009 fishing season.

The main new measures introduced include a cut in the duration of the purse seine fishing season, a reduction in the purse seine fishing capacity, a freeze on farming capacities, a regional observer programme and stronger control measures from the point of capture to market. As an ICCAT contracting party, the EU is committed to reducing overcapacity in the bluefin tuna fleet by 25% prior to the 2010 fishing season and to implementing a four-year capacity management plan for the period 2010-2013.


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