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Brussels, 21 March 2014
Preparation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 24th March 2014
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of March 2014 will take place in Brussels on 24th March 2014. The Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş and Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg. The morning and afternoon will deal with agricultural issues, including an informal discussion of trade issues over lunch, with the Fisheries and Health points being taken from late afternoon onwards. A press conference will be held in the evening at the end of the discussions. The public debates and the press conference can be followed by video streaming: http://video.consilium.europa.eu.
Promotion of agricultural products
In a public session, Ministers will continue to discuss the Commission's promotion proposals already presented to Member States at the February Council (see IP/13/1139, MEMO/13/1032 and MEMO/14/109). Discussions will centre around a Presidency text concentrating on particular points, notably the level of EU financial assistance provided to promotion programmes and the involvement of Member states in the selection procedure for simple programmes. The proposed reform of the information and promotion policy for European agricultural and food products aims to help the sector's professionals break into international markets and make consumers more aware of the efforts made by European farmers to provide quality products, based on a genuine strategy established at European level. The Commission proposes to significantly increase the aid allocated to information and promotion initiatives, to strengthen the competitiveness of European agriculture, from EUR 61 million in the 2013 budget to EUR 200 million in 2020. Another important feature is the setting up of a European executive agency supporting the opening up of new markets.
Organic production and labelling of organic products
The Commission will present new proposals for changes to EU organic rules which seek to address shortcomings of the current system. The EU organic market has quadrupled in size over the last 10 years and rules need to be adjusted so that the sector can further develop and respond to future challenges. Focusing both on consumer and producer concerns, the Commission's proposal aims at strengthening and harmonizing rules, in particular by removing exceptions in terms of production and controls, so that consumer confidence in the system can be maintained. The initiative takes into account the results of a public consultation carried out in 2013, which met a high interest from the public (45 000 respondents) and highlighted concerns in terms of environment and quality and showed a clear demand for strengthened and more uniform organic rules throughout the EU.
Fruit & Vegetables report
The Commission will also present its recently published Report on the fruit & vegetables regime. Required under the 2007 Fruit & Vegetables reform, this report looks at various issues addressed in that reform, but does not make any concrete proposals at this stage. It stresses the persistently low degree or lack of organization of fruit and vegetables producers in some southern Member States and Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and later. Fruit and vegetables producers not belonging to producer organizations do not benefit from specific EU aid for the sector. These producers, often the smallest, have a very weak bargaining power within the supply chain and are more exposed to risks deriving from globalization and climate change. The report therefore stresses the need to explore measures to stimulate forms of cooperation to help producer organizations and non-organized producers overcome these challenges. The report also calls for a review of the fruit and vegetables regime to ensure that support for producer organizations is better focused. It concludes that the Commission could build upon the results of this report and the upcoming debate to present legislative proposals at a later stage for a revision of the EU aid scheme for the fruit and vegetables sector.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing
Ministers are expected to adopt the Commission's proposal of November 2013 to list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as non-cooperating third countries in the fight against illegal fishing. The three countries have not demonstrated real commitment to tackling illegal fishing. (IP/13/1162)
The Council's decision will entail trade measures against the three countries. It is the first time that such measures are adopted at EU level.
North Sea sandeel and North-East Atlantic blue whiting – 2014 catch limits
Ministers will seek to reach political agreement, with a view to adopting catch limits for North Sea sandeel for 2014. The catch limits had been set at zero in January pending advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). ICES has since published its advice on 21 February 2014 in which it set out catch limits for each of the seven management areas of the North Sea in order to avoid local depletion. Sandeel is a short-lived species, mainly used for processing. The fishing season opens on 1 April. Political agreement will also be sought on the issue of blue whiting in the North-East Atlantic.
Mackerel in North-East Atlantic and EU/Norway bilateral consultations
Commissioner Damanaki will update Ministers on the outcome of the negotiations with Coastal States on the mackerel in the North-East Atlantic. Following intense discussions, a five-year arrangement was reached in London on 12 March between the EU, Faroe Islands and Norway.
The arrangement, which runs until 2018, makes room for another Coastal State to join at a later stage. It establishes a number of important principles such as a commitment to sustainable fisheries, a sharing between the Parties, and a commitment to establish a new long-term management plan in 2014 following ICES advice. (IP/14/264)
Also agreed on 12 March were new arrangements on the management of shared fish stocks in the North Sea between the EU and Norway for 2014. Total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for the shared stocks in the North Sea were established and an agreement was also reached on the exchange of reciprocal fishing possibilities in each other's waters. (IP/14/265)
Commission Report regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat used as an ingredient.
Upon the request of the France delegation, the Commission will present the Report – adopted in December 2013 - regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat used as an ingredient. The request for a report was a result of long discussions on the provisions of the Regulation on Food Information to Consumers. Member States are expected to take the floor during an exchange of views.
More details in IP/13/1265
Any other business
The Spanish delegation will present a note on the application of the EU's Regulation against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU Regulation).
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