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MEMO/12/277

Brussels, 25 April 2012

Preparation of Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 26-27 April 2012

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Luxembourg on 26 and 27 April. The meeting will be chaired by Mrs Mette Gjerskov, Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. Commissioners Maria Damanaki, Dacian Cioloş, and John Dalli will represent the Commission at the meeting. Agriculture issues will be dealt with on Thursday and Fisheries issues on Friday. Over lunch on Friday, ministers will discuss the socio-economic dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy. A press conference on the agriculture and animal welfare points will be held on Thursday evening, and on Friday (before lunch) for the fisheries points.

Fisheries

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

The Council will debate the Commission's proposals for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and hold orientation debates on the following aspects of the proposed CFP reform.

  • Regionalised policy-making: the aim is to involve stakeholders more in decision-making and to shift the decision-making process closer to the fishing communities. The Commission proposal aims to end micro-management from Brussels so that EU legislators will only define the general framework, the basic principles, the overall targets, the performance indicators and the timeframes. Member States will then decide the actual implementing measures, and will cooperate at regional level. In addition to simplifying the process, this will favour solutions tailored to regional and local needs.

  • Introduction of transferable fishing concessions: the Commission proposes that fishing rights are tradable within a Member State, to have in place a market-oriented instrument to reduce overfishing. This new system would give the fishing industry a long-term perspective, more flexibility and greater accountability, while at the same time reducing overcapacity.

  • The objective of the reform is to end overfishing and make fishing sustainable - environmentally, economically and socially. The reform aims to:

  • bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels by setting fishing opportunities based on scientific advice,

  • provide EU citizens with a stable, secure and healthy food supply for the long term,

  • bring new prosperity to the fishing sector, end dependence on subsidies and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas.

  • During the informal Ministerial lunch Ministers and Commission will exchange views on the social dimension of the CFP reform.

The reform package consists of a) a legislative proposal for a new Regulation setting out the main rules of the CFP, b) a legislative proposal for a new Market Policy, c) a Communication on the external dimension of the CFP and d) an overarching communication explaining the links between the above (IP/11/873).

Agriculture and Rural Development

Reform of the Common Agriculture Policy

Ministers will hold further debate on the Commission's proposals for the post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy, with 2 full table rounds based on questionnaires tabled by the Presidency. Both debates will be public, i.e. webstreamed "live" on the internet at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/press/council-meetings?lang=en

Discussion will focus on CAP direct payments, with the first table round centring on the Commission's proposed additional schemes for young farmers [the proposal to have a 25% "top up" to the standard direct payment for young farmers when they set up] and small farmers [the concept of a simplified scheme for farmers with small farms in order to provide a significant reduction in the administrative burden both for those farmers and national administrations]. The questions centre in particular around the content of these schemes and whether they should be mandatory for Member States, as proposed by the Commission. A further aspect relates to the proposed option for an element of direct payment for farmers in areas with natural constraints with the Presidency asking to assess this option in relation to measures available under Rural Development plans.

The second round table will look at the definition of "active farmers" and the administrative burden involved in seeking to find a tighter definition of those who should be eligible to receive Direct Payments. [The Commission is looking to close a number of existing loopholes while remaining in line with our WTO commitments on "decoupled" payments. The proposal states that payments would not be granted to applicants whose CAP direct payments are less than 5% of total receipts from all non-agricultural activities.] It will also consider the "capping" model and how to find a simpler starting model for limiting the amounts of Direct Payments individual farms can receive. [The Commission proposals sees a gradual reduction of payments from €150 000 onwards with an overall cap at €300 000, but an allowance for salary costs.] Finally the Presidency raises the internal redistribution of the national envelope for Direct Payments looking in particular at the impact, rhythm and pace proposed by the Commission. [The Commission has proposed that the allocation of direct payments should move away from a system based on historical references towards a flat-rate payment per region, which will mean a certain redistribution within the EU-15.]

Any Other Business

Promotion

Commissioner Cioloș will present the Commission's recent Communication "Promotion measures and information provision for agricultural products: a reinforced value‑added strategy for promoting the tastes of Europe" [see IP/12/332]. Following on from last year's Green Paper on Promotion, the document centres future objectives around four themes: real European added value; more attractive programmes with a bigger impact; simpler and more effective management and new synergies between the different promotion instruments. No discussion is foreseen.

Fruit & vegetable producer group rule changes

Hungary has asked to discuss the recent change to the rules on funding for producer groups, which introduces an annual budget limit.

Dairy market Situation

Poland has asked to discuss the dairy market situation.

Animal welfare

Any Other Business (AOB)

Item for Discussion – Directive on the Protection of Pigs in the Member States in view of the implementation of Group Housing of sows by 1 January 2013

The Commission will inform the Council about the updates on the compliance with the Directive on the protection of pigs in the Member States in view of the implementation of group housing of sows by 1 January 2013. In particular, due the continuous evolution of the situation, the Commission will present the current state of implementation of group housing of sows across the EU, based on the data received by Member States; the previsions of the Member States for the future state of implementation by 31 December 2012 will also be presented.

Council Directive 2008/120/EC on the protection of pigs requires that sows and gilts (immature female pigs) are kept in groups during approximately 2 months and a half of their pregnancy in all pig holdings keeping 10 sows or more from 1 January 2013. The requirement to keep sows in group was adopted in 2001 and provided a long enough transitional period for the pig sector to adapt.

The Commission will remind Member States to take their responsibilities. The intension is to highlight to Member States the importance to urgently take all the necessary measures to ensure full compliance with Council Directive 2008/120/EC and to continue providing transparent and harmonized data on the implementation of group housing of sows.

The implementation of group housing of sows by 1 January 2013 in all Member States is considered essential to avoid important distortions of competition and to avoid the loss of confidence by EU consumers.


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