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Brussels, 21 September 2012
Preparation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 24 & 25 September 2012
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of September 2012 will take place in Brussels on 24 & 25 September 2012, under the presidency of Mr Sofoklis Aletraris, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environment. Monday's session will deal with agriculture issues (under the aegis Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş), and Tuesday's session will deal with the fisheries points (Maritime Affairs & Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki) and a number of SANCO "Any Other Business points" (Health Commissioner John Dalli). Two press conferences will be held: one on the agriculture points at the end of Monday's session and one on the fisheries points on Tuesday, at the end of the morning session. Public sessions and press conferences will be web streamed live at the following address: http://video.consilium.europa.eu
The first day of the Council will be devoted to Agriculture issues. Ministers will hold two orientation debates on aspects relating to the Commission's CAP Reform proposals, based on questions asked by the Presidency. The first relates to the proposed changes to the system of less-favoured areas within the Rural Development Regulation. The second concerns the various market instruments foreseen in the proposed Single Common Market Organization (CMO) Regulation.
The Rural Development regulation covers a framework of measures available, so that Member States or regions can then design and co-finance their own multi-annual programmes which are adapted to national or regional specificities. One element in the rural development framework concerns specific support for farmers in less favoured areas (LFAs), where funds are used to compensate farmers for the more difficult production conditions that they face. The Commission proposals foresee a revision to the definitions (delimitation of areas with significant constraints), partly in response to doubts raised by the Court of Auditors in 2003 that the wide range of criteria used to define some categories of less favoured areas might be a source of unequal treatment. The Presidency has tabled three questions related to these proposed changes. Firstly, whether flexibility should be an integral element of "fine tuning", i.e. of the methods used to exclude areas where a natural constraint has been documented but has been overcome by investments (e.g. irrigation in dry areas) or by economic activities (e.g. wine production on stony soils); Secondly, whether those Member States that require more time to complete the delimitation using the new biophysical criteria proposed by the Commission should be given until the end of 2015 to complete the exercise (instead of 2014 in the Commission proposal). Finally, what further adjustments do Member States consider necessary to pave the way towards a political agreement on this matter.
The Single CMO proposal put forward by the Commission provides for the continuation of a series of market management measures (public intervention, private storage, exceptional measures and export refunds) aiming to function as a safety net. The objective is to provide policy instruments to respond to excessive price volatility and market disturbances as well as to balance the supply chain. Some Member States would be in favour of further measures, in particular a mechanism to update the level of the reference prices which serve as a trigger for these measures. However, the Commission opposes further changes, underlining amongst other things that such adjustments may have implications under WTO rules. Council discussion will focus on two questions put forward by the Presidency, namely whether the Commission proposal strikes the right balance to provide an effective safety net, and whether the update of reference prices would increase the effectiveness of the safety net – and in which sector and under what conditions.
The second day of the Council will be mostly devoted to Fisheries issues. Ministers will hold a public debate on the Commission's proposal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-2002. The new Fund will help deliver the ambitious objectives of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will help fishermen in the transition towards sustainable fishing, as well as coastal communities in the diversification of their economies. The fund will finance projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts. Red tape will be cut so that beneficiaries have easy access to financing. This fund will replace the existing European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and a number of other instruments. The proposed envelope amounts to € 6.5 billion for the period 2014 to 2020 (link IP/11/1495). The Cypriot Presidency plans an orientation debate based on a number of questions in order to seek Ministers' position in view of a partial general approach at October's Council.
Any other business