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Brussels, 19 December 2011

Statement by Commissioner Potočnik following the Environment Council

Maintaining and restoring agriculture and forest biodiversity is a precondition to attaining our biodiversity objectives. We have already identified specific problems in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and related targets and actions in the Biodiversity Strategy.

Therefore, the Commission can only regret the deletion of all concrete indications on the required way forward to strengthen the contribution of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to biodiversity objectives.

As highlighted in its proposals on the reform of the CAP, the Commission reiterates the importance for biodiversity of maintaining permanent grasslands; of protecting and supporting Ecological Focus Areas; and of ensuring crop diversification; and emphasises in this context the importance of action at farm level. The Commission further underscores the importance of incorporating biodiversity elements – in particular in relation to Natura 2000, High Nature Value farming and the protection and restoration of wider biodiversity – into rural development, and of recognising the value of ecosystem services provided by farmers. These priorities will continue to guide the Commission's position in inter-institutional discussions on the reform of the CAP.

On Resource Efficiency, we welcome the fact that Ministers agree that the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe is a key element of the Europe 2020 Strategy leading to economic transformation towards a more sustainable and competitive economy. We also welcome the endorsement by Ministers of the need for a cross-sectoral approach. This requires an approach that coherently links short-term actions to milestones for 2020 in a pathway to achieve the 2050 vision of achieving sustainable growth which respects resource constraints and planetary boundaries. The Commission regrets that Council Conclusions fall short of the level of ambition that is needed.

The Commission looks forward to working with future Presidencies to reaffirm Council's commitment to an ambitious and positive resource efficiency agenda in 2012, especially including resource efficiency in the European Semester and in national reform programmes, for example by addressing the issue of phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies and switching taxes away from employment.

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