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MEMO/09/550

Brussels, 11 December 2009

Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of December 2009

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 14 (starting at 10.00), Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 December, under the Presidency of Mr Eskil Erlandsson, Swedish minister for Agriculture. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel, Androulla Vassiliou and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.

On Monday and Tuesday afternoon Council will deal with fisheries items, on Tuesday morning Health issues are on the agenda and on Wednesday the Agriculture points will be discussed.

Over lunch on Tuesday, Ministers will be discussing the future of Common Policy for Animal Health and Welfare.

The points on the agenda are:

Fisheries

Fishing possibilities for 2010

The one highly important fisheries-related item on the Council agenda will be a political agreement on the Commission proposal for a Council Regulation fixing fishing opportunities for 2010 ( IP/09/1538 ). This proposal concerns the main commercial stocks in the Atlantic, including the North Sea. Fishing opportunities for the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea were decided earlier this autumn.

In preparing the proposal the Commission has used the same objective working method, based on scientific advice, as in previous years. It has taken the views of Member States and the industry on board and sought to alleviate short-term difficulties for the catching sectors wherever possible. As a result, it has limited TAC reductions to 15% in respect of 49 stocks, while for a further 10 stocks reductions beyond 15% have proven unavoidable. On the plus side, the Commission has proposed TAC increases for eight stocks where scientific advice is positive. As always in fisheries management, a trade-off has to be made in foregoing fishing opportunities in the short term in order to secure a more stable and profitable future for the fishing industry.

The 2010 fishing opportunities proposal still contains more reductions than increases. However, a consistent and rigorous application of conservation criteria which takes account of scientific expertise and enjoys the support and direct involvement of the industry will, in time, result in replenished stocks and equilibrium between fishing and fish production. The goals of rebuilding depleted stocks and delivering sustainable fisheries in the long term are in line with the criteria laid down in the Commission's consultation document of May 2009 on fishing opportunities for 2010 ( IP/09/747 ).

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 has been banned. The Commission remains committed to reducing discards. In addition, fishers can do their bit to fish responsibly by returning to port once their quotas are used up, using selective fishing gear and avoiding concentrations of young fish.

This year's proposal does not yet include final figures for stocks managed jointly with Norway or the Faroe Islands, because the parties have not yet reached agreement on those resources. The Commission is therefore proposing provisional figures for these shared stocks to allow fishing to continue while the negotiations carry on early next year.

Food safety and animal health

Animal welfare labelling

The Commission will present a report, adopted on 28 October, presenting a range of issues concerning animal welfare labelling and the possible establishment of a European Network of Reference Centres for the protection and welfare of animals. The purpose of this report is to enable the European Parliament and the Council to undertake the in-depth discussion on animal welfare labelling. This inter-institutional discussion will provide the basis for the Commission's reflections in shaping possible future policy options.

AOB

  • Negotiations with Russia in the veterinary and phytosanitary field: Information from the Commission.

  • International Conference on GMO's in European Agriculture and Food Production (The Hague, 25-26 November 2009): Information from the Netherlands delegation.

  • Provision of food information to consumers – Information from the presidency.

Agriculture

Simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy

On 20 November, the Commission issued a report with the reactions to the 39 simplification suggestions which Member States jointly submitted to the Commission in April. The working document provides information on the outcome of the assessment process and a state-of-play on the progress made since March 2009.

The document first concentrates on the assessment of the list of 39 suggestions. It provides an overview of the evaluation process; outlines the highlights of the outcome and, where appropriate, presents a timeline for the follow-up the Commission's services intend to give. It goes without saying that the results of this process and their implementation through binding acts or proposals are subject to the approval by the Commission on a case by case basis. Apart from reviewing the proposals, considerable simplification related progress has also been made in other areas.

The report and further information on simplification of the CAP are available at:

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

Based on a questionnaire from the Presidency, the Council will have an exchange of views on this subject.

Future CAP: Rural Development

The Council will continue the debate on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and will focus on the Rural Development policy. A questionnaire from the Presidency will be the basis for the discussion.

State aid for the purchase of agricultural land in Lithuania, Latvia, Italy and Hungary

The Council received from these four Member States a formal request to approve the granting of State aid to farmers for the purchase of agricultural land.

The Council has to decide by unanimity on such exceptional state aid.

Dairy market report

The Commission will present an updated quarterly report on the situation of the dairy market. Recent figures show a further improvement in dairy prices.

A better functioning food supply chain in Europe

On 28 October, the Commission has agreed a Communication (see press release IP/09/1593 ) on measures which aim to improve the functioning of the food supply chain in Europe. The recent sharp decline in agricultural commodity prices alongside persistently high consumer food prices has raised concerns on the efficiency of this crucial sector of the European economy. Improving commercial relationships between actors of the chain will be a significant step towards a more efficient food supply chain ultimately benefiting all actors of the chain and consumers alike.

The full text of the Communication and Commission working documents are available on the internet at : http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/thematic_articles/article16028_en.htm

The Commission will present the Communication to the Council.

AOB

  • Abolition of production levy for sugar producers by repealing Article 51 of Single CMO Regulation (EU N° 1234/2007) – Polish demand

  • 26 th Conference of EU paying agencies – General Conclusions: Information from the Presidency.

Environment

Obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market

The Agriculture Council is expected to reach political agreement on a proposal for a Regulation which aims to minimise the risk of illegal timber being placed on the EU market. The proposed regulation will make it an obligation for traders to know where their timber is from and ensure that timber they sell has been harvested according to the relevant laws of that country . This first reading political agreement will pave the way for negotiations with the European Parliament with a view to a second reading agreement in 2010.

Protection of animals used for scientific purposes

On 5 November 2008, the Commission presented a proposal (see IP/08/1632 ) that aims to strengthen the protection of animals still used in scientific procedures in line with the European Union's Protocol on Animal Welfare, ensure a level playing field throughout the EU for industry and enhance the quality of research conducted in the EU. The new provisions will also contribute to minimising as far as possible the number of animals used in experiments.

The Council will be informed on the state of play of the negotiations with the European Parliament, under the co-decision procedure.


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