Brussels, 22 February 2013
Preparation of Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 25-26 February 2013
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of February will take place in Brussels on 25 and 26 February 2013, under the presidency of Mr Simon Coveney, Irish Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Commission will be represented by Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Dacian Cioloş, Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development and Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. Agriculture points will be dealt with on Monday, while Tuesday will be dedicated to Fisheries and Health issues. A press conference will be held for each session at the end of the discussions. The public debates and the press conferences can be followed by video streaming: http://video.consilium.europa.eu.
The Council will have 2 public debates – webstreamed "live" - on direct payments and on transparency, two major aspects of the reform of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
For direct payments, the Commission proposed in October 2011 to support farmers' income in a fairer, better targeted and simpler way, in particular with a more equitable distribution of funds between farmers, between regions and between Member States (respectively internal and external convergence) - see IP/11/1181. The Presidency has circulated a paper setting out a number of amendments to the Commission proposal, as well as new provisions relating to internal convergence.
On transparency, Ministers will discuss the Commission proposal of September 2012 aimed at reconciling the need for transparency with the protection of personal data. Previous rules had been put on hold following a 2010 judgment by the European Court of Justice partially invalidated transparency rules on the basis that they went beyond data protection rules for "natural persons". The new proposal – see IP/12/1006 - sets out limits on the publication of individual names and asks Member States to publish more detailed information, particularly on the type of aid and the description of the measures for which the funds have been allocated. Discussions will be structured around three questions put forward by the Presidency – the objective pursued by the Commission's proposal; elements relating to beneficiaries of funding to be published; and possible thresholds.
Any other business
The Austrian delegation will present a document on a new European protein strategy, concerning the EU's continued dependence on imports for protein supplies.
Fisheries reform: Discard ban and environmental obligations
The Council will discuss the main Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Fisheries Policy, proposed by the Commission in July 2011, as part of the package of proposals for a new, reformed fisheries policy for the EU.
Ministers will try to reach a general approach on the remaining parts of the Regulation, after the partial approach they agreed in June 2012 under Danish Presidency. More specifically, the Council will focus on the environmental obligations of Member States and on the ban of discards that are foreseen in the Regulation.
The objective of the reformed fisheries policy is to end overfishing and make fishing sustainable - environmentally, economically and socially. The new policy 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. IP/11/873.
The Commission will inform ministers on the latest state of play in the negotiations between the Commission and the government of Morocco for the signing of a new Protocol under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement.
Health and Consumer Policy
The Irish Presidency has put the "mislabelling of beef products" on the agenda of the February Agriculture Council. The issue was first discussed in Coreper on 13 February 2013, followed by an Informal Ministerial meeting on 13 February evening organised by the Irish Presidency where the Member States most affected by the mislabelling of beef products, France, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated.
The Commission proposed an intensive monitoring plan comprising two elements:
1. Extensive DNA tests on beef products (taken from the shelves) to check for the presence of horsemeat;
2. Verification of the absence of phenylbutazone in horsemeat in slaughterhouses or at the border when imported from third countries.
These tests will be carried out for three months with the first phase during March. The results of the first phase will be reported to the Commission by 15 April and will be published immediately. The number of tests to be conducted in each Member State will be proportionate to its meat product trade, the number of slaughtered horses, and the quantity of imported horsemeat.
The Commission is in close contact with the enforcement authorities in the Member States, in order to ensure that all information related to the investigations is circulated through the RASFF system allowing Member States to target their investigations.
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