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Brussels, 27 November 2012
Preparation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 28 & 29 November 2012
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of November 2012 will take place in Brussels on 28 & 29 November 2012, under the presidency of Mr Sofoklis Aletraris, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environment. Wednesday's session will deal with agriculture issues (under the aegis of Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş), while Thursday's session will deal with the fisheries (Maritime Affairs & Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki) and health and consumers points (Health and Consumers Commissioner Tonio Borg). Two press conferences will be held: one on the agriculture points at the end of Wednesday's session and one on the fisheries and health and consumers points on Thursday, 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 main elements of Ministers' discussions on agriculture will be 3 table rounds on aspects of the CAP reform proposals - greening, market policies and rural development. All 3 debates will be "public" - broadcast live on the Internet - and based around questions put forward by the Presidency.
"Greening" - The Commission has proposed that 30% of the direct payments envelope should be paid specifically for the use of certain sustainable agricultural practices – for the provision of environmental public goods which are not remunerated by the market. The Commission has proposed that each farmer should apply 3 specific measures, where relevant. These are: maintaining permanent pasture, ensuring crop diversity on arable land, and maintaining a 7% ecological focus area on each holding, which includes taking into account field margins, hedgerows and other existing non-productive areas which are currently not eligible for support.) In April, the Commission also agreed to look at ways of counting certified agri-environment schemes as partly /fully “equivalent” to the greening measures - so that farmers have a choice of applying the standard 3 measures, or using agri-environment schemes designed at national or regional level to meet the greening provisions. For the Council debate, the Presidency questionnaire focuses on whether there is agreement on equivalence as a tool to achieve greening in an efficient and cost-effective manner; on whether equivalence should be based on the assessed environmental gain of the alternative measures concerned; and on how to reach a simple, manageable, efficient and predictable assessment of environmental gains. Finally, the Presidency questionnaire also address the need to find a solution so as to avoid double funding, should agri-environment-climate commitments carried out under the rural development pillar be considered as equivalent to greening measures proposed under the direct payment pillar.
The sugar quota regime is due to expire in 2015, as agreed in the 2006 reform of the EU sugar sector. The reform aimed at restructuring the sector in order to make it more competitive. The Commission now considers that the sector is now ready to face international competition, and that the quota system is no longer necessary. Some Member States have however called for an extension of the regime, while others support the planned expiry. The Presidency questionnaire asks Member States what measures, if any, they would envisage as necessary to ensure smooth transition for all actors in the food chain.
Finally, noting that fruitful debates were already held on the commission's proposals for the reform of the rural development policy and that the proposed regulation should be assessed as a whole and as a package with other regulations, the Presidency invites Ministers to signal the most important issues that they consider outstanding and in need of further discussions.
Any other business
The Council will discuss and decide on the Commission's proposal on fishing opportunities for certain deep-sea fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic for 2013-2014 (IP/12/1083)
In line with the scientific advice, the Commission proposed to increase total allowable catches (TACs) for 3 stocks, a decrease for 13 stocks, and maintain TACs at the current level for 8 stocks (including zero TACs for 6 stocks), compared to 2012. For 2013 the Commission proposed to increase by 77% the TAC for roundnose grenadiers west of the British Isles (to 4,500 tonnes). Fishing at these levels should permit to bring this stock to sustainable levels by 2015 (so called maximum sustainable yield (MSY)).
The Commission also proposed to increase by 20% and 5% the TACs for two black scabbard fish stocks in western waters (West of Scotland/Ireland). Also for these stocks the scientific advice indicates how to achieve MSY in 2015. TACs for the remaining stocks of black scabbard fish and roundnose grenadier are proposed to be cut or maintained unchanged. Taking the precautionary approach, the Commission proposed to cut by 20% the red seabream and blue ling TACs, as the conservation status of these stocks is not fully assessed.
Deep-sea fish are caught in waters beyond the main fishing grounds of continental shelves. They are distributed on the continental slopes or associated with seamounts. Most of these species are slow-growing and long-lived, which makes them particularly vulnerable to fishing. Although improvements can be seen, scientific data is still poor for most deep-sea stocks.
Other fisheries points
Item for Discussion: Proposal for a Council Regulation on the use of lactic acid to reduce microbial surface contamination of bovine carcases
The possibility to approve an antimicrobial treatment for surface decontamination of food of animal origin is included in the current EU hygiene legislation (Regulation (EC) No 853/2004) adopted by the Council and the Parliament.
A draft Commission Regulation approving the use under certain conditions of lactic acid to reduce surface contamination on bovine carcasses was submitted to the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health, on 21 September 2012, for an opinion. The Committee did not deliver an opinion on the draft Commission Regulation, as a qualified majority was not reached.
Consequently, pursuant to Article 3(2) of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 and in accordance with Article 5a of Council Decision 1999/468/EC, the Commission submitted to the Council and the Parliament a draft Council Regulation relating to the measures to be taken.