Brussels, 17, 18 and 19 December 2003
15975/03 (Presse 369)
2555th Council meeting Agriculture and Fisheries Brussels, 17, 18 and 19 December 2003
IDENTIFICATION OF OVINE AND CAPRINE ANIMALS 6
PROTECTION OF ANIMALS DURING TRANSPORT 7
OFFICIAL CONTROLS ON FEED 7
MAXIMUM RESIDUE LEVELS OF PESTICIDES 8
AGRICULTURAL MARKETS 8
Proposals on tobacco, olive oil, cotton and hops 8
2004 TACs and quotas 8
Comparative Table of TACs and Quotas 2003/2004 10
recovery PLANS FOR COD AND NORTHERN HAKE STOCKS 19
GUIDE PRICES AND COMMUNITY PRODUCER PRICES FOR CERTAIN FISHERY PRODUCTS FOR THE 2004 FISHING YEAR 20
OTHER BUSINESS 21
Feed hygiene requirements 21
Draft veterinary agreement between the Russian Federation and the European Union 21
Imports of Basmati rice 21
Situation on the pork market 22
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
The Governments of the acceding States were represented as follows:
IDENTIFICATION OF OVINE AND CAPRINE ANIMALS
The Council adopted by qualified majority the Regulation establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 and Directives 92/102/EEC and 64/432/EEC as contained in 15229/03. The Spanish, Greek and Portuguese delegations voted against, emphasising the need in particular for Community funding for electronic identification measures and for setting up a database via the first pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy rather than via rural development measures. The United Kingdom delegation, supported by the Swedish delegation, regretted that no cost benefit analysis was available for the entry into force of the measures. The Swedish delegation, supported by the German delegation, was opposed to any Community financing for these measures.
Commissioner Byrne welcomed the adoption of this Regulation.
The purpose of the Regulation is to improve and harmonise the tracing of ovine and caprine animals to avoid, as far as possible, and limit the spread of contagious diseases. The need for the measures which it introduces was demonstrated by the experience gained from the epidemic of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001.
The main changes to the initial proposal are as follows:
* The computer database becomes obligatory as from 1 January 2008 instead of the dates in 2004 and 2005 originally suggested.
* The age at which the animal is identified: all animals must be identified within 6 months of birth (instead of 1 month as indicated in the initial proposal) or at least before they leave the holding. The initial proposal provided for immediate application from 1 July 2003. This compromise allows Member States an adjustment period of 18 months following publication of the Regulation.
* The means of identification and the date of entry into force of electronic identification: the first means of identification continues to be an eartag, but for the second Member States may now choose between a second eartag in the other ear, a tattoo (for national trade), a mark on the pastern or an electronic device. The initial proposal did not include tattooing or a mark on the pastern (for caprines only). However, until 1 January 2008 the second means of identification may be replaced by a global system of identification by holding and individually (following repeated requests from Ireland and the United Kingdom) for movements of animals within a State. As from 1 January 2008, electronic identification becomes obligatory for all ovine and caprine animals. That date will be confirmed or amended by an interim report to be submitted to the Council by 30 June 2006. The initial proposal provided for application of electronic identification as from 1 July 2006. The compromise also provides for a new derogation for Member States in which the number of animals is 600 000 or less.
PROTECTION OF ANIMALS DURING TRANSPORT
The Council took note of the technical progress achieved under the Italian Presidency, as described in document 15568/03 concerning the proposal for a Council Regulation on the protection of animals during transport, and agreed to continue the technical examination of the proposal during the first three months of 2004. The Council noted that the Irish Presidency intended to expedite discussions in order that a decision might be taken on this dossier on receipt of the opinion of the European Parliament, which is expected in the spring of 2004.
The Presidency suggested basing the animal transport provisions on the social legislation for hauliers, together with a number of specific requirements taking into account the nature of the cargo (feeding, watering, rest periods and veterinary checks).
The Belgian, Danish, Swedish, Netherlands and Austrian delegations, while open to such an approach, wanted a maximum limit to be set for the transport of animals for slaughter and a ceiling placed on the number of transport stages for other types of animal. The Swedish and Danish delegations in particular emphasised the need for more account to be taken of animal welfare, with animals being slaughtered close to the place of rearing and meat transported instead of animals. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, German, Swedish and Danish delegations also called for more checks to be carried out throughout the journey.
Commissioner Byrne welcome the progress made on this dossier.
The proposal introduces new measures including the extension of the scope to livestock markets and livestock vessels, the harmonisation of transporters' authorisation documents, the definition of animals "unfit" for transport and a simplified review procedure in the light of developments in scientific data.
The proposal also provides for the strengthening or codification of certain legislative instruments on welfare during transport, in particular by improving the training of personnel responsible for handling animals, establishing a stricter regime for long-distance journeys, strengthening the role of the authorities responsible for supervising transport operations and reinforcing the instruments for monitoring implementation of the legislation.
Finally, it updates certain technical standards on the basis of the revision of the European Convention of April 2000 for the Protection of Animals during International Transport.
OFFICIAL CONTROLS ON FEED
The Council noted the progress made with the proposal for a Regulation on official feed and food controls (6090/03), notably on the question of fees and sanctions, and the Irish Presidency's intention to expedite discussions on the matter (including the scope) with a view to submitting an overall compromise to the Council at the earliest opportunity, in the light of the European Parliament's opinion at first reading scheduled for February 2004.
MAXIMUM RESIDUE LEVELS OF PESTICIDES
The Council noted the progress made, on the basis of an interim report concerning the proposal for a Regulation on maximum residue levels of pesticides. The purpose of the proposal is to introduce a system establishing a Community maximum level (varying in the light of the toxicity of the pesticide) for pesticides in products of animal or plant origin. The proposal would simplify the current system by replacing the existing system of national authorisation, after a period of transition, by a Community procedure of authorisation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the basis of risk assessment. The proposal would facilitate trade between Member States and replace four Directives by a single Regulation in the pesticide residue sector. The proposal would also fix a maximum "default" limit for unauthorised uses of pesticides (e.g. inadvertent use). The European Parliament's opinion at first reading is expected in the spring of 2004.
Commissioner Byrne hoped that the European Parliament would deliver its opinion as quickly as possible.
The Council held a preliminary policy debate on the reform of the tobacco, cotton, olive oil and hops sectors on the basis of the two legislative proposals submitted by the Commission, and noted delegations' positions. It instructed the Special Committee on Agriculture to expedite examination of the matter in the light of the debate and to report back to it at a future meeting.
2004 TACs (1) and quotas
After long and difficult discussions, the Council adopted by qualified majority, on the basis of an overall compromise drawn up by the Presidency and supported by the Commission, the Regulation on the 2004 TACs and quotas establishing for 2004 the fishing possibilities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where catch limitations are required. The German and Swedish delegations voted against and the Greek delegation abstained.
The Council's adoption of this Regulation was closely linked to the agreement on the proposal for a Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod stocks and the general approach to the proposal for a Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the Northern hake stock.
A series of statements accompanied the adoption of these acts.
The compromise covers the allocation of the fishing possibilities for each Member State in each Community fishing area in 2004.
It includes an Annex V establishing for the period 1 February to 31 December 2004 interim measures limiting fishing effort and measures for the surveillance, inspection and control of certain fish stocks, which are not applicable to small vessels (less than 10 meters). The Council discussed the content of this Annex in the light of its close link with the adoption of the multiannual recovery plans for Northern hake and cod.
The main changes made to Annex V were as follows:
* the fishing areas covered by fishing effort limitation are the North Sea, West of Scotland, Skagerrak and Kattegat, Irish Sea and Eastern Channel. The initial proposal also included the Western Channel, Iberian peninsula and Atlantic coast.
* There is a derogation for vessels equipped with appropriate vessel monitoring systems (VMS) which have been notified to the Commission: fishing effort limitation is not applicable to those vessels in certain parts of West of Scotland.
* The definition of fishing days is based on days present within the area and absent from port, in order to improve and clarify the concept of actual fishing. The initial proposal defined fishing effort solely in terms of absence from port.
* To make the system of limitation adopted more flexible, fishing days may be aggregated over a management period of up to 11 months. In the initial proposal the management period was 3 months. Days are awarded on a monthly basis, however: a table indicates the maximum number of days per month present within the area and absent from port (between 10 and 22 depending on the fishing gear used) in the areas covered.
* New derogations from this maximum number of days present are, however, permitted for fishing gear with larger mesh sizes, to encourage selective catches in the Eastern Channel and the Kattegat. There are also exemptions for vessels whose catches in 2002 did not exceed 5% of certain species (notably cod, plaice and sole). Two extra days are allocated to traditional fishing in the Irish sea to compensate for the area closure to protect juveniles and reduce the mortality rate for cod.
In general, the most significant increases in TACs compared to those adopted for 2003 concern cod in areas I and IIb (+34%), megrim in areas VII and VIIIa,b,d,e (+26%), monkfish in VIIIa,b,d (+63%) and VII (+32%), haddock in IIa and the North Sea (+65%) and VIIa (+156%),hake in most areas (+30%) except VIIIc, IX and X, blue whiting (+95%) in areas V, VI, VII, XII et XIV, IIa and the North Sea, VIIIa,b,d,e, sole in Skagerrak and Kattegat, IIIb,c,d,e (+35%).
In comparison, the most significant reductions in TACs mainly affect cod stocks in the Kattegat
(-41%), in areas Vb,VI, XII, XIV (-53%), Southern Albacore in the Atlantic Ocean (-35%), megrim in area II and the North Sea (-30%) and areas VIIIC, IX, X, CECAF (- 44%), monkfish in VIIIc, IX, X, CECAF (- 42%), whiting in VIII (-59%) and VIIIb,k (-49%), plaice in the Kattegat
(-44%), Greenland halibut in NAFO 3LMNO (-52%), sole in VIIe (-50%).
Details of the Regulation on 2003 TACs and quotas and a comparison by species of the 2003 TACS, the Commission proposal for 2004 and the Regulation adopted by the Council are annexed.
Council Regulation (EC) No 2341/2002 of 20 December 2002, Annexes IA, IB, IC, ID, IE, IF.
Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing TACs and quotas for 2004, Annexes IA, IB, IC, IE.
* Does not include the Member States due to accede to the European Union in May 2004.
recovery PLANS FOR COD AND NORTHERN HAKE STOCKS
The Council reached unanimous political agreement, the Belgian delegation having indicated its intention to abstain, on the Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod stocks, on the basis of an overall compromise prepared by the Presidency and supported by the Commission. The Council also reached a general approach, pending the European Parliament's opinion, on the Council Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the Northern hake stock
Compared to the initial proposals, the political agreement reached and the general approach to the recovery plans include the following main changes:
* the provisions on fishing effort limitation originally proposed in the recovery plan for the Northern hake stock are deleted;
* the political agreement on cod establishes a fishing effort limitation arrangement based henceforth not on kilowatt-days but on fishing areas and fishing gear, as laid down in Annex V to the TACs and quotas Regulation (see above);
* the mortality rate for determining the TAC applicable to Northern hake is now 0,25%. However, a TAC may not be adopted if, in the light of the most recent scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), it is considered that it would lead to a decrease in mature stock biomass. The initial proposal determined the TAC on the basis of the increase in the quantities of mature fish;
* prior notification of the competent authorities by the master of the vessel of the quantities of hake and cod landed applies solely to quantities of one tonne or over for cod and two tonnes or over for hake; a minimum threshold of 50 kilos is fixed below which prior notification does not apply, for all species in the case of cod and for regulated species only in the case of Northern hake;
* the margin of tolerance for the quantities of hake and cod reported in the logbook is 8%;
* regarding controls by a Member State's authorities on catches of hake and cod, provision is now made for a system of controls by representative sampling covering at least 20% of the landings, weighed in the presence of the State controllers, instead of systematic controls of all quantities fished.
The two proposals for cod and Northern hake replaced an initial proposal made by the Commission in December 2001, the objective of which was to bring about the recovery of stocks of both species which were threatened to a large extent by over-fishing, according to scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Interim measures were subsequently
taken with regard to certain cod stocks during the reform of the CFP, in Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No 2341/2002 on TACs and quotas.
The aim of the recovery plans submitted in 2003 was to allow an annual renewal of 10% of the quantity of mature hake in the sea and of 30% in the case of cod. They covered the fishing areas of Kattegat, the North Sea including Skagerrak and the Eastern Channel, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea. The areas covered by this proposal in the case of hake are Kattegat, the North Sea including Skagerrak, the West of Scotland, the Channel, the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea, West of Ireland and the Bay of Biscay.
These plans establish the absolute minimum size of stocks below which the experts consider them to be in serious danger of total collapse and place restrictions on catches via the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) established to allow stocks to be replenished
(+ 30% for cod the species under more serious threat and + 10% for hake).
Furthermore, the two proposals contained a clause aiming to limit fishing effort based on kW-days. Finally, provision is also made for monitoring, inspection and surveillance measures.
GUIDE PRICES AND COMMUNITY PRODUCER PRICES FOR CERTAIN FISHERY PRODUCTS FOR THE 2004 FISHING YEAR
On the basis of a Presidency compromise endorsed by the Commission, the Council unanimously adopted, with the French delegation abstaining, the Regulation (15808/1/03 + COR 1) fixing for the 2004 fishing year the guide prices and Community producer prices for certain fishery products in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 104/2000.
While the original proposal provided for a 6% reduction, the French delegation wanted the guide price for saithe to be reduced by only 3% in relation to 2003. The Presidency compromise proposed a cut of 5%.
The changes to the original proposal are as follows:
* the guide price for cod was increased (+0,5%) to 1 631 EUR/tonne instead of 1 623 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for saithe was increased (+1%) to 766 EUR/tonne instead of 758 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for ling was increased (+1%) to 1 214 EUR/tonne instead of 1 201 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for plaice (from 1/5/2002 to 31/12/2002) was increased (+1%) to 1 499 EUR/tonne instead of 1 484 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for hake was increased (+0,5%) to 3 731 EUR/tonne instead of 3 713 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for dab was increased (+1%) to 877 EUR/tonne instead of 868 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for albacore tuna was increased to 2 265 EUR/tonne (+2,5%) instead of 2 210 EUR/tonne as originally proposed for whole fish or gutted fish with head, and to 2 515 EUR/tonne (2,1%) instead of 2 464 EUR/tonne as originally proposed for gutted fish;
* the guide price for shrimp was increased (+1,5%) to 2 391 EUR/tonne instead of 2 354 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for Northern prawns boiled in water was increased (+1%) to 6 411 EUR/tonne instead of 6 344 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for whole Norway lobster was increased (+0,5%) to 5 337 EUR/tonne instead of 5 310 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for sole was increased (+0,5%) to 6 748 EUR/tonne instead of 6 714 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for octopus was increased (+1%) to 2 119 EUR/tonne instead of 2 098 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the guide price for squid was increased (+1%) to 1 168 EUR/tonne instead of 1 156 EUR/tonne as originally proposed;
* the Community producer price for yellow-fin tuna was increased (+1%) to 1 219/EUR/tonne instead of 1 207 EUR/tonne as originally proposed.
Article 18 of Regulation (EC) No 104/2000 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products provides for a guide price to be fixed for each of the products listed in Annex I and for each of the products and groups of products listed in Annex II. That guide price is based on the average of prices recorded for a significant proportion of Community output on wholesale markets or in ports during the three fishing years immediately preceding the year for which the price is fixed.
Account is also taken of trends in production and demand. Other criteria to be considered include the stabilisation of market prices, support for producers' incomes, and consumers' interests.
The Presidency briefed the Council on progress with the proposal for a Regulation laying down requirements for feed hygiene, as set out in 15617/03.
The Commission submitted this proposal on 14 April 2003; it aims at laying down requirements for a comprehensive system of registration of all feed business operators as well as for feed production, including those for feed businesses at the level of primary production.
The Presidency and the Commission informed the Council of the state of play in the negotiations with the Russian Federation on the draft veterinary agreement following the meeting held in Moscow on 10 December 2003. The Presidency applauded the negotiating parties' constructive spirit and their resolve to reach before 1 May 2004 an agreement under which veterinary cooperation between them could develop. The Irish delegation felt that the work done provided a positive basis for discussion with a view to an early agreement. Various delegations also emphasised the need to reach agreement quickly.
The United Kingdom delegation drew the Council's and Commission's attention to a proposal placed before the Management Committee, following the detection of fraud in basmati rice imports, to exclude from eligibility for the EUR 250/tonne import duty abatement certain varieties ("Super" and "Pusa") that were particularly important to Pakistan. According to the delegation, this would affect 80% of Pakistan's basmati rice exports (16103/03).
The United Kingdom delegation, supported by the Netherlands delegation, wanted the Commission to seek alternatives to outright exclusion of these hybrid rice varieties.
Commissioner Fischler stated first of all that the proposal for a Regulation was still being considered by the relevant management committee. He stressed that the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had detected four cases of fraud relating to imports of these rice varieties and that the proposal had been submitted in order to put an end to that fraud, which was affecting European consumers. He went on to point out that the price differential between the traditional basmati variety and the "Super" and "Pusa" hybrids justified excluding the latter from eligibility for the EUR 250/tonne customs duty abatement, which had been in force since 1996. He concluded by saying that, pending a solution satisfying both exporters and consumers, certificates of authenticity for basmati rice imports had been introduced and would apply until the second quarter of 2004.
The Austrian delegation wished to draw the Council's and Commission's attention to the sharp deterioration in the situation on the pork market in Europe; it suggested re-introducing export refunds for the export of pork to third countries, particularly Russia, in order to reduce current stocks on the European market (16128/03).
The downturn on that market is mainly due to the rise of the euro against the US dollar, lower pork consumption in Europe and, lastly, a rise in feed prices following the drought in Europe in the summer of 2003, which reduced the amounts of feed cereals available. The result has been a fall of almost EUR 1/kg in the price of pork in several European countries (France, Portugal and the Netherlands). In order to prevent any worsening of the situation, the Commission decided to introduce private storage from 22 December 2003 for a certain quantity of pork.
The Austrian delegation received support from several delegations, some of which felt that aid for private storage was simply a stopgap which did not resolve the underlying causes of the downturn. The Danish, Swedish and United Kingdom delegations entered reservations on the principle of the reintroduction of export refunds for fresh or frozen meat, particularly in view of the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Spanish delegation wanted such refunds to be reintroduced and refunds for processed products to be increased. The Portuguese delegation called for a review of the import duties on maize with a view to reducing feed costs.
Commissioner Fischler agreed with all delegations that this sector was facing an exceptional downturn. However, the Commission had considered it preferable to grant private storage aid and then, over the next few weeks, re-examine the market situation in the light of the measures taken before deciding on the use of refunds. He pointed out that, besides the risk of difficulties with the WTO which reintroducing export refunds entailed, such a measures could also distort competition prior to 1 May 2004 between the Member States benefiting from it and the acceding States. He acknowledged Portugal's specific problems with maize imports and said that the Commission should shortly be taking measures in this connection.
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
Milk - Azores
The Council unanimously adopted, with the Italian delegation abstaining, a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1453/2001 introducing specific measures for certain agricultural products for the Azores and Madeira and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 1600/92 (POSEIMA) with respect to the application of the supplementary levy in the milk and milk products sector in the Azores (15194/03).
The proposal in question, adopted without change, it is based on Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty and aims to extend the period of derogation from the additional levy in the milk and milk products sector granted to the Azores, in view of their difficulties in meeting the production objective.
Organic farming * Council conclusions
The Council adopted conclusions on a Strategy for a European Action Plan for organic food and farming (15908/03), as follows:
"In May 2001 a conference entitled "Organic Food and Farming Towards Partnership and Action in Europe", organised by the Danish Ministry of Agriculture, was held in Denmark. That conference followed on from one held in Austria in 1999 and was aimed at introducing an action plan for further development of organic farming in Europe. The matter was placed on the agenda for the Agriculture Council meeting on 19 June 2001.
The European Commission prepared a paper containing an analysis of the possibility of a European action plan for organic food and farming (15619/02 of 20 December 2002).
At meetings held in Brussels in 2003, Member States unanimously welcomed the Commission's initiative and called for work to be set in hand on drawing up the action plan.
At its meeting in Salzburg in November 2003, the European Conference on Rural Development stressed the key aim of strengthening the competitiveness of the farming sector through diversification, innovation and value added products, taking into account the diversity of agricultural potential in different rural areas.
there is a need to standardise the wide variety of definitions of "organic farming" used by bodies such as the European Union, the United Nations (FAO and Codex Alimentarius), individual countries and international organisations (the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)). This makes it necessary to try and agree on a single definition;
there is a need to make organic farming one of the key components of the European food supply chain, along with typical products and high-quality products, as a forward-looking factor for sustainability of the entire farming and agri-foodstuffs sector. Organic farming therefore needs to be supported by a suitable integrated European research and innovation system;
organic farming has been seen to play a vital role in protecting biodiversity and conserving non-renewable resources used in agriculture, as well as for the implementation of rural development policy and for food safety and quality, thereby acting as a driving force for the entire European farming and agri-foodstuffs sector;
the new CAP has a crucial part to play in ensuring that it is actually possible to maintain and develop the sector's production base, for which purpose it is essential that the action plan also evaluates the impact of the different instruments for implementation of the reform on organic farming and thus gives additional guidance to Member States on their choices regarding these instruments;
organic farming has been shown to serve an important purpose in environmental policies, particularly in reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere, in combating desertification and in protecting and conserving water resources and natural habitats;
in the light of the decisions taken by the Union concerning GMO production, marketing and labelling and of the guidelines for coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming, the question of compatibility between GMO production and organic production needs to be considered, in particular regarding avoidance of adventitious presence of GMO;
the expansion of organic farming should be placed on a permanent basis by an increase in demand for organic products. Therefore initiatives to improve the marketing conditions and to ensure better consumer information play a key role.
The Council of the European Union therefore:
calls on the Commission to update the objectives set in the preparatory paper, so as to tailor measures under the European action plan to the strategic role to be played by organic farming under the Union's environmental policies and to background developments as a result of CAP reform;
- calls on the Commission, in the light of the decisions taken by the Union concerning GMO production, marketing and labelling and of the guidelines for coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming, to include among the action plan's strategic objectives the protection and enhancement of organic products by means of appropriate measures for organic production, inter alia control of adventitious presence of GMO;
calls on the Commission to promote, not least internationally, moves to arrive at a definition of "organic farming" and of "organic product". The Commission should accordingly evaluate the costs and benefits of using the European logo for all organic products irrespective of their origin without excluding the use of other logos, and introduce effective campaigns, targeting all European consumers, to promote consumption and trade with third countries of such products and improve their free movement;
calls on the Commission to include among the action plan's strategic objectives the evaluation of possibilities for Member States to encourage voluntary initiatives to establish rural areas for the advancement of value-added production, such as that of organic, typical and traditional products, in a drive for local development of quality products. In the aim of thus increasing the competitiveness of the farming sector as well as the organisation between the various operators of the organic production chain, the diversity of agricultural potential in different rural areas shall be taken into account;
calls on the Commission to further examine the need of setting up, at European level:
(a) an independent Committee to provide scientific and technical advice, guide research and innovation in organic farming and promote synergy in the framework of a network between centres of excellence in individual Member States;
(b) an economic observatory to evaluate the evolution of the supply and demand of organic produce;
calls on the Commission to continue work on adapting basic inspection rules, with the aim of further bringing the entire organic supply chain within the inspection system following a risk-based approach, of enhancing product traceability and of streamlining bureaucratic procedures. In doing so due regard shall also be given to imports of organic products from third countries;
calls on the Commission, lastly, to inform the Council on the progress of the European action plan by the end of February 2004, with a view to final submission of the plan by the end of May 2004.".
Agricultural insurance * Council conclusions
The Council adopted conclusions on risk management in agriculture (15968/03), as follows:
The CAP reform decided in Luxembourg in June 2003 will provide a modified system of farm income support to farmers, decoupled from production, that should ensure a stable basic income to farmers. However, the overall strategy of improved market orientation of the agricultural sector, together with the next steps towards liberalisation of agricultural trade, may increase exposure to price risks.
Furthermore, agricultural production is particularly vulnerable to natural risks, related either to climate or to animal health, that can jeopardise the economic sustainability of agricultural holdings.
As a consequence of economic development and the growing concern about environmental and food safety issues, agricultural activity in the EU faces additional uncertainties which go beyond traditional natural risks.
The Commission provided a first analysis of risk management tools for EU agriculture in January 2001, which was discussed under the Swedish Presidency by the competent Council bodies.
The Presidency conclusions on agricultural insurance as a risk management tool in arable and livestock farming, based on a memorandum submitted by the Spanish Presidency on 18 March 2002, and the International Conference on "Agricultural insurance and income guarantees", held in Madrid on 13 and 14 May 2002, focused on the potential role of agricultural insurance.
A Greek Presidency memorandum on natural risks and insurance in the agricultural sector was submitted to the Council on 7 May 2003 and a seminar was held in Thessaloniki on 6 June 2003 to examine possible responses to natural disasters in the agricultural sector.
In its statement in the Council minutes of 29 September 2003, when the CAP reform regulations were adopted, the Commission announced that it would examine specific measures to address risks, crises and national disasters in agriculture and present a report, accompanied by appropriate proposals, to the Council before the end of 2004.
The Council accordingly invites the Commission:
to continue to lead the debate on risk management tools in agriculture. In order to facilitate the exchange of information and views between Member States, the Commission report scheduled for the end of 2004 should provide an updated inventory of the different risk management tools available in Member States, covering the current EU-15 and the accession countries;
to examine the advantages and disadvantages of different risk management options in the context of Common Market Organisations and the new generation of rural development programmes. Notwithstanding the agricultural sector's own responsibility, possible new instruments to replace, if appropriate, current measures should be taken into account and examined on the understanding that distortions of competition must be avoided, WTO rules must be observed and the financing of any new measures must be in keeping with the financial commitments already in place;
to assess the opportunities provided by the Community guidelines for State aids in the agricultural sector for the development of national risk management systems in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and the common market and, if necessary, to suggest adaptations.".
Information measures Council conclusions
The Council adopted conclusions on information measures relating to the common agricultural policy, as follows:
1. Regulation (EEC) No 814/2000 provides a sound legal framework for CAP information work.
2. The experience of the past three years has been largely positive in terms of the quality of the measures financed or co-financed, and future evaluation of the impact of the measures will make it possible to see how useful the policy has been.
3. Experience indicates that there is no reason at this stage to modify the two facets of the information policy, namely the measures proposed by third parties for cofinancing by the EAGGF and the measures taken on the Commission's initiative, which receive 100% EAGGF financing.
4. The funds available have not been fully utilised and the administrative complexity and limited scope of the measures have been cited as the main reasons for this underutilisation of budget appropriations.
5. Efforts to strike a better balance between the various types of beneficiary organisation should be continued.
6. Dialogue between the Commission and the Member States on information policy should be stepped up.
7. The Commission is shortly to make an appraisal to identify any measures that should be taken to improve the cost/effectiveness of the system.
The Council agreed that:
Member States would make suggestions, particularly regarding administrative simplification, with a view to making more effective use of available funds;
the Commission should be invited to propose that Regulation No 814/2000 be adapted in order to improve the effectiveness of measures to develop CAP information policy and, in particular, to make provision for technical assistance, at the request and on behalf of the Commission, for the administration of subsidies financed from its budget;
the measures financed by the Commission should lead to a better targeting of aid and greater overall cost/effectiveness of information policy.".
The Council adopted a Decision on the conditions for drawing up, for an interim period, provisional lists of third country establishments from which Member States are authorised to import certain products of animal origin, fishery products or live bivalve molluscs (15227/03). This Decision extends until 31 December 2005 the period of validity of Decision 95/408/EC, which expires on 31 December 2003.
The Council unanimously adopted two Regulations amending Regulation (EEC) No 1696/71 on the common organisation of the market in hops and amending Regulation (EC) No 1098/98 introducing special temporary measures for hops (13995/03 and 13996/03). In a transitional context pending future reform of the CMO for hops, the purpose of the first proposal, based on Article 37 TEC, is to extend, for the 2004 harvest, the current provisions governing production aid. As in previous years since 1996, aid for the 2004 harvest is fixed at EUR 480 per hectare. The purpose of the second proposal, based on Article 16a of the basic Regulation on hops, is to extend in the same way, for the 2004 harvest, the special measures in force for the temporary resting or definitive grubbing up of hops.
Oenological processes - derogations
The Council unanimously adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1037/2001 authorising the offer and delivery for direct human consumption of certain imported wines which may have undergone oenological processes not provided for in Regulation (EC) No 1493/1999 (15942/03). The Regulation extends the derogations for United States wines from the oenological processes currently applying in the Community.
This derogation, which will last for two years (from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2005), is being granted in the context of the ongoing negotiations between the Community and the United States with a view to concluding an overall agreement in 2004 on trade in wine between them. Since the negotiations are still continuing, it is imperative that the current arrangements, which expire on 31 December 2003, be extended in order to prevent a legal vacuum.
The Council unanimously adopted a Regulation setting aid rates in the seeds sector for the 2004/2005 marketing year (14704/03). The purpose of the Regulation is to set the aid rates for the 2004/2005 marketing year in a transitional context pending entry into force of the reform of the CMO for seeds, under which production aid for seeds will be incorporated into the single payment scheme as from the 2005/2006 marketing year.
The Council unanimously adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No 2075/92 on the common organisation of the market in raw tobacco. In a transitional context pending entry into force of the reform of the CMO for raw tobacco, the Regulation fixes, for the 2004 harvest, the percentage to be deducted from the premium to finance the Community Tobacco Fund at the same level as for the 2003 harvest (3%) (14728/03).
The Council unanimously adopted a Regulation derogating from Regulation (EC) No 1251/1999 as regards the set-aside requirement for the 2004/2005 marketing year (15103/03 and 15623/03 ADD 1). The purpose of this Regulation is to reduce the set-aside rate for the 2004/2005 marketing year from 10 to 5% in order to offset the effects on the market of the severe drought in the summer of 2003. A Commission statement is set out in an addendum.
Conversion of fishermen - Agreement with Morocco
The Council unanimously adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2561/2001 aiming to promote the conversion of fishing vessels and of fishermen that were, up to 1999, dependent on the fishing agreement with Morocco (15209/03).
This Regulation repeals the provisions stipulating that individual lump sums may be paid to fishermen only if the vessel on which they were employed has permanently ceased its activities.
The agreement on the relations as regards sea fishing between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco expired on 30 November 1999; at that date, more than 400 fishing vessels and about 4 300 fishermen were forced to stop their activities.
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
Readmission agreement with Hong Kong
The Council adopted a Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation (9190/02).
The draft readmission agreement forwarded by the Commission to the Hong Kong authorities was examined in various rounds of negotiations and initialled in Brussels on 22 November 2001.
On 24 September 2002 the Council adopted the decision concerning the signing of the agreement (9081/02 MIGR 41 ASIE 14), which took place on 27 November 2002.
The Council took note of the activity report of the Europol Joint Supervisory Body (October 1998-October 2002) (13899/03).
Fight against drugs - Council Resolution
The Council adopted a Resolution on training for drug law enforcement officers (11052/4/03).
Migration and asylum
The Council approved all the amendments set out in the Opinion adopted by the European Parliament at first reading (15821/03) on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a programme for financial and technical assistance to third countries in the area of migration and asylum. The Regulation will be adopted following the customary finalisation by the Legal-Linguistic Experts.
Cooperation in criminal matters
The Council had already adopted a general approach on this draft Agreement, at its meeting on 27 November 2003.
The texts of the Decision and the Agreement have since been finalised by the Legal-Linguistic Experts.
The Council adopted the Decision on the signing of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union (14938/03).
Interoperable Delivery of pan-European e-Government Services to Public Administrations * - Public deliberation
The Council adopted a common position concerning the proposal for a Decision on Interoperable Delivery of pan-European eGovernment Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (14816/03 + ADD 1). Under the codecision procedure, the common position will now be forwarded to the European Parliament for it to adopt its recommendation on second reading.
This program will improve cooperation between public administrations and support the delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to citizens and businesses, thus contributing to greater efficiency in both the public and the private sectors. This is to be achieved by the implementation of projects of common interest by the Community in cooperation with the Member States. Those projects will be supported by horizontal measures including the promotion of infrastructure services for public administration or the establishment of strategic and supportive activities to promote pan-European services.
Subsidisation and unfair pricing practices * - Public deliberation
The Council adopted its common position on the proposal for a Regulation on the protection of European industry against subsidisation and unfair pricing practices in the supply of airline services by third-country operators (14141/03 + ADD 1). Under the codecision procedure, the common position will be sent to the European Parliament so that it can adopt its recommendation at second reading.
The text adopted by the Council provides for the adoption by the Commission of protective measures, on condition that:
(a) it is possible to establish the existence of subsidies or unfair pricing practices and injury to the Community industry caused thereby, and that
(b) there is a Community interest calling for intervention. The assessment of the Community interest will look at the impact of the measures on all the various interests, for example balancing possible consequences for consumers or other interested parties against advantages for the Community industry.
The draft Regulation lays down the procedure to be followed concerning initiation of proceedings, investigation, provisional measures, termination of the procedure without measures and imposition of definitive measures. Air service agreements with third countries that can be used to deal with practices covered by this text will be given priority.
Anti-dumping India Cotton-type bed linen
The Council adopted, by a simple majority, a Regulation terminating the review concerning the anti-dumping measures imposed by Regulation (EC) No 2398/97 on imports of cotton-type bed linen originating, inter alia, in India, without imposing measures. (15540/03).
Regulation (EC) No 2398/97, as amended by Regulation No 1644/2001, provides for definitive anti-dumping measures of up to 9,8% on imports of the products concerned.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan - Textile products
The Council adopted a Decision on the provisional application, pending their conclusion, of new Agreements between the Community, of the one part, and Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, of the other part, on trade in textile and clothing products (15094/03).
The new Agreements provide for the extension of existing Agreements with those countries in that area until 31 December 2004.
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY
Electromagnetic fields * - Public deliberation
The Council adopted its common position on the proposal for a Directive establishing minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from electromagnetic fields (13599/03 + ADD 1 and 15620/03 ADD 1). The proposed Directive will mark an important step towards better protection of workers against this kind of risk of which there is ever greater public awareness.
The general structure of the new text, for instance the Articles on worker information and training, consultation and participation, follows the model of the previous Directives on vibration and noise.
The proposed Directive introduces exposure limit values and action values based on the recommendations drawn up by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). As, for the moment, there is insufficient scientific evidence on possible long-term effects, the proposed Directive is limited to short-term effects due to exposure to electromagnetic fields.
EU/Egypt Association Agreement Trade provisions
The Council adopted a Decision approving an Agreement on the provisional application of the trade provisions contained in the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the Community and Egypt pending completion of the procedures necessary for the entry into force of the Association Agreement.
On 7 April 2003 the Egyptian Parliament ratified the Association Agreement signed in June 2001 and in November 2001 the European Parliament gave its assent. The ratification procedure is under way in the Member States.
(1) Total Allowable Catches