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Brussels, 19 October 2012
Preparation Agriculture and Fisheries Council, Luxembourg, 22 & 23 October 2012
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of October 2012 will take place in Luxemburg on 22 & 23 October 2012, under the presidency of Mr Sofoklis Aletraris, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Dacian Cioloş, Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, will represent the Commission at the meeting. The Fisheries points will be dealt with on Monday morning and again on Tuesday afternoon, and a press conference will be held at the end of Tuesday's discussions. The public debates and the press conferences can be followed by video streaming:
Discussions of Agriculture Ministers will continue to focus on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), taking the form of three table rounds on internal convergence of CAP Direct Payments, young farmers and the single Common Market Organization (CMO) structured along questionnaires drawn up by the Presidency. All three debates will be webstreamed.
On internal convergence of CAP Direct Payments, the Commission proposals are aimed at providing a fairer distribution of payments both between and within Member States. This includes a convergence mechanism with options for regionalisation to avoid unjustified disruptive effects for some categories of farmers. This includes a large degree of discretion to Member States, allowing them to differentiate payment entitlements at regional level with regions defined according to objective criteria such as agronomic or economic characteristics and their regional agricultural potential. The Presidency questionnaire focuses on whether the current system - based on historical levels of direct payment - constitutes an outdated concept to be reformed, whether there is a common agreement for Member States to achieve or maintain significant and irreversible progress towards uniform per hectare payments on a national or regional level by 2019; and, finally, on the form of flexibility desirable with regard to the timing, level and composition of the initial steps towards convergence.
For young farmers, the Commission has proposed to establish a specific support scheme for young farmers, so as to take into account their specific difficulties (e.g. access to land or credit) which would be mandatory and would take place under the CAP "first pillar" (Direct Payments). Some Member States have expressed themselves in favour of a voluntary scheme. A new concept was recently debated at Working Group level which implies that Member States would be required to implement a scheme in favour of young farmers either through the Direct Payments system (the so-called "First Pillar"), or through Rural Development policy (the "Second pillar"). The Presidency questionnaire first asks Member States whether they agree that the ageing of the farming population is an EU-wide problem and that common action is required at EU level. It then requests them to focus on the nature of the Young Farmers Scheme and on the concept described.
The Commission's CAP reform proposal entails a CMO-related obligation for Member States to recognise all producer organisations, associations of producer organisations and inter-branch organisations in all sectors. This aims at strengthening the bargaining power of farmers and the functioning of the food supply chain. Some Member States have voiced concerns about the inclusion of the milk sector under the scope of this regulation. The Presidency asks whether Member States agree that strengthening the position of producers in the food chain is an important objective of the new CAP; whether they consider justifiable to give priority to sectors covered by the status quo; and which sector(s) Member States should be exempted from the official recognition of producer organization or which sector(s) should be given priority for strengthened recognition. In addition, the Commission proposal on CAP reform also includes a special approach to the application of competition rules, still with the aim to enable farmers and producers to combine their production and marketing efforts, so reinforcing their bargaining power. Some Member States have argued that the requirement laid out in the proposals that producer organisations recognised by Member States should not hold a dominant position is too broad. The Presidency question therefore focuses on whether the requirement should be that the producer organisations should not hold a dominant position or that they should not abuse this dominant position.
Finally, not in public session, Commissioner Cioloș will present recent proposals on CAP transparency (part of proposed amendments to the so called "Horizontal Regulation", which also include elements relating to the accession of Croatia to the EU) –see IP/12/1006.
Any Other Businesses
Baltic TACs 2013
The Council will discuss the Commission Proposal on fishing opportunities for the Baltic Sea for 2013 with a view to reaching an agreement. The overall aim of the Commission's proposal is to make fisheries in the Baltic Sea environmentally and economically sustainable by following scientific advice.
This year's scientific advice indicates that the number of stocks managed at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) level in the Baltic Sea might be increasing. The cuts in Total Allowable Catches (TACs) adopted in previous years proved effective and the number of stocks being fished at MSY level could go from three to six in 2013, if the proposed TACs are adopted.
The Commission proposed higher TACs for sprat, for the stocks of Central and Western herring and for plaice. It also proposed to reduce TACs of the remaining pelagic stocks to respond to the natural fluctuations of stocks and ensure MSY levels. The number of days at sea for fishing vessels were to remain the same as in previous years.
The proposals are based on scientific advice from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) and STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries).
For details on the Commission's proposal, see:
European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
Following the debate at the September Council, ministers will attempt to reach a partial general approach on the Commission's proposal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) in a public debate. 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 (IP/11/1495). Commissioner Damanaki will focus on how the EMFF ensures the long-term environmental, economic and social sustainability of EU fisheries and the fishing communities that depend on these fisheries.
Other fisheries points
The Council will also exchange views with the Commission on the EU-Norway annual consultations for 2013 and on the upcoming annual meeting of ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), to be held in Agadir, Morocco from 12-19 November.