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Brussels, 19 November 2009
Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of November 2009
The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Friday 20 November (starting at 9.30), under the Presidency of Mr Eskil Erlandsson, Swedish minister for Agriculture. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.
In the morning Agriculture items will be on the agenda and in the afternoon Food safety and Fisheries points.
Over lunch, Ministers will be discussing the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy – more specifically the framework for decision-making.
The points on the agenda are:
State aid in Poland for the purchase of agricultural land
The Council received from Poland a formal request for approval to grant State aid to Polish farmers for the purchase of agricultural land. The envisaged aid takes the form of subsidising interest payments on loans. This aid should enable 600,000 hectares of agricultural land to be sold, during the period from 2010 to 2013, for the purposes of setting up or extending agricultural holdings which meet the criteria for family-run holdings, i.e. up to 300 hectares. The scheme should allow for setting up around 24,000 agricultural holdings with an area of not less than the average in the relevant voivodship. The average amount of aid per one holding should be around EUR 4,500.
The Council has to decide by unanimity on such exceptional state aid.
On 9 October, the Commission proposed two changes to the rules governing the dairy sector as part of its continuing efforts to stabilise the milk market. Firstly, it is proposed that the dairy sector should in future be covered by a disturbance clause which already exists for other farm sectors, to allow a quicker response to future market disturbances. Secondly, for the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 quota years, changes to the operation of quota buying-up schemes by Member States will ensure that bought up quota which is kept in the national reserve should no longer count as part of the national quota when it comes to deciding whether superlevy is due for exceeding the quota. If superlevy is then collected, the part corresponding to the bought-up quota can be used by Member States for restructuring of the sector.
The Council will adopt the changes as an A-point (without discussion).
Genetically Modified organism: Maize
The Council will examine a proposal for authorisation of the placing on the market of products containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified maize (MIR604).
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.
Conservation of fisheries resources through technical measures – political agreement
The Presidency will try to achieve political agreement on the Commission's proposal for a Council Regulation concerning the conservation of fisheries resources through technical measures ( ). Technical measures play a crucial role in ensuring sustainable fisheries, alongside catch and effort limitations, and are particularly valuable in protecting fish stocks at specific stages in their life cycle and avoiding discards. They typically include such provisions as minimum landing sizes, rules governing mesh size and composition of catches, closed areas and seasons, and the types of fishing gear which may or may not be used.
The proposal seeks to simplify and improve current legislation on technical measures by repealing obsolete regulations and gathering together technical measures of relevance to the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea that are also found in ten other regulations. The current rules on technical measures have been in place since 1998 and were amended numerous times. Furthermore some technical measures were always contained in the so called TAC and quota regulation that was adopted each year in December. These measures include the high grading ban, the obligation to use square mesh panels and sorting grids as well as closed areas for various fisheries such as cod, haddock, whiting, Norway pout, sandeel, herring, blue ling.
It also provides for harmonisation in areas such as mesh size ranges, combined with a regionalised approach. Furthermore, it includes provisions to protect juveniles and marine ecosystems, together with measures aimed at helping reduce discards and at shifting fishing behaviour towards more selective fisheries.
Alongside the proposed Council Regulation laying down principles, horizontal measures and permanent provisions, three Commission regulations setting out specific geographical provisions for the North Sea, North Western Waters and South Western Waters make up the overall technical measures package.
The sector, stakeholders in general and Member States have all expressed their views on the Commission proposal. Council will be asked to consider a compromise text submitted by the Swedish Presidency for approval.
EU-Norway consultations for 2010 – information from the Commission and exchange of views
Following the exchange of views at the October Council, the Commission will report to Council on the progress in the first round of negotiations (due to conclude on 20 November), and there will be a discussion on the approach to be taken during the remainder of the negotiations in Brussels in early December.
The negotiations will be dealing with some difficult issues, not least the poor state of the blue whiting stock and the interpretation of the arrangements in the EU-Norway agreement regarding mackerel. Technical discussions on this issue have been ongoing. The EU and Norway will be monitoring the discard measures they have agreed on together in 2010.
The bilateral Fisheries Agreement between the EU and Norway covering the fisheries on joint stocks in the North Sea has been in place since 1980. Some, but not all, of these stocks are jointly managed. Annual total allowable catches (TACs) are set jointly by the EU and Norway for the jointly managed stocks, taking care to ensure an overall balance in the reciprocal exchange of quotas across the Agreement.
Fishing opportunities in the Black Sea for 2010 – political agreement
Council will discuss the Commission's proposal ( ) on fishing opportunities for the Black Sea in 2010 with a view to reaching political agreement. The Commission has proposed a total allowable catch (TAC) of 76 tonnes for turbot (a 24% reduction compared to 2009) and of 12,750 tonnes for sprat (unchanged from 2009). The TAC for sprat is unallocated, while the TAC for turbot would be provisionally divided equally between Bulgaria and Romania. The proposal also sets out technical measures to help the turbot fishery recover.
The measures in the proposal are based on advice from two working groups of leading fisheries scientists from the Black Sea Region, and from the Commission's own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) which has reviewed the working groups' report.
Through the measures proposed, the Commission is seeking to rebuild depleted stocks and to ensure sustainable fisheries in the long term, in line with the criteria laid down in its consultation document on fishing opportunities for 2010, which was published in May ( ).
Furthermore, as part of the ongoing efforts to reduce discards, the practice of high-grading (i.e. discarding fish in view of a higher size/price catch) for any species subject to a quota is to be banned.
Community action reducing incidental catches of seabirds (Commission statement)
Seabirds have learned to take advantage of fishing operations to get an easy meal. Unfortunately, this exposes them to new dangers, as they get caught in the fishing gear and often die. This is a subject of great concern at EU- and global level alike.
The Commission wants to take action to address the problem of seabirds in marine fisheries in an incremental and adaptable fashion, and will be asking Member States to work constructively towards this objective.
Outcome of ICCAT meeting
On a request by Italy, the Commission will inform Council on the outcome of the latest meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of AtIantic Tunas (CCAT) meeting, which ended last week-end in Brazil.