Brussels, 23 and 24 November 1998
13171/98 (Presse 405)
2137th Council meeting
Brussels, 23 and 24 November 1998
President: Mr Wilhelm MOLTERER
Federal Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Austria
LIST OF CONTENTS
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The Governments of the Member States and the Commission of the European Communities were represented as follows:
1. The Council recalls that the European Council in Cardiff concluded that the Commission's proposals constitute a basis for the continued reform foreseen by the European Council in Luxembourg and that in line with the overall timetable for Agenda 2000, the negotiations on key elements of the reform should take into account the need to achieve economically sound solutions and be based on the conclusions agreed by the Agriculture Council on 26 May 1998. Moreover, the European Council considered that substantial progress should be made at its Vienna meeting on the key elements of the package so that political agreement can be reached on the package as a whole no later than March 1999.
2. Since the European Council in Cardiff the agricultural part of Agenda 2000 has been submitted to a further detailed examination both at the level of the Agriculture Council (at its July, October and November meetings) as well as at the level of the Special Committee on Agriculture and the Council Working Parties. The work has been carried out with the aim of developing the European model of multifunctional, sustainable and competitive agriculture throughout the European Union, which the Council defined at its November 1997 meeting and which the Luxembourg European Council confirmed.
This work, following that accomplished in the first half of 1998, has enabled important progress to be made. In particular, the Council
has completed the necessary preliminary stage of identification and clarification of the central questions to be resolved, on the basis of questionnaires drawn up by the Presidency and has further taken note of specific points highlighted by various Member States;
and has thus opened the way for the final stage of substantial negotiations during which solutions and answers to these questions and points are to be found.
Similar progress has been accomplished at the technical level. This progress is reflected in a series of documents which will be completed and serve as the basis for future work. It should be noted that technical examination of the proposal for reform of the wine sector has been accelerated in order to enable a consolidated text to be established as rapidly as possible.
3. At its October 1998 meeting, the Council undertook to establish at its November meeting a clear political position as a contribution for the Vienna European Council.
Following on from this decision, the Council has adopted its report to the European Council, set out in 13090/98. This report pinpoints the general trends which have already emerged from the discussion and which reflect the substantial progress made since Cardiff, as well as the points on which the Member States continue to differ more significantly.
In adopting its report, the Council takes the view that none of the individual features on which opinions already converge at this stage can be regarded as finally approved until there is overall agreement on the Agenda 2000 proposals taken as a package.
4. Recalling its November 1997 deliberations and without prejudice to the ongoing discussions on the financing aspects of Agenda 2000, the Council reiterates that the problem of funding the future Common Agricultural Policy is crucial and that it is important to have adequate, suitable resources available to complete the reform process
and achieve the desired model of European agriculture. In emphasising this, the Council also confirms its firm will to continue managing the Common Agricultural Policy and to bring about its reform without breaching the budgetary discipline applicable to the European Union.
Finally the Council confirms its firm will to complete negotiations at its March session. With a view to concluding negotiations within this timetable, the Council calls upon the SCA to pursue its deliberations and further confirms that as from the beginning of 1999 it, the Council, shall be assisted in the final political stage of negotiations by a high level group of representatives of the Member States. This group will meet in advance of forthcoming negotiations at Ministerial level and will aim to identify the appropriate political agreements to enable an overall conclusion to be reached.
The Council, having received from the Commission a proposal for a Decision amending Decision 98/256/EC as regards certain emergency measures to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, as amended by Decision 98/564/EC, held a vote on the proposal.
The Presidency noted the lack of a qualified majority in favour of or a simple majority against the proposal.
The Council also decided that it did not intend to return to this subject before expiry of the 15-day period from referral, in which it was required to decide on the Commission's proposal.
Consequently, the measures proposed by the Commission and put to the Council's vote will be adopted by the Commission.
It will be recalled that the Commission proposal provides for the establishment of an export scheme for the United Kingdom; once implementation and monitoring of the scheme have been checked, a date would be set for the resumption of exports of beef from only one specific category of British beef animal and products thereof. This scheme would apply only to deboned meat and to its products from animals born after 1 August 1996 and aged between six and 30 months. The scheme also covers the culling and destruction of offspring of animals infected by BSE and checking that the dam lived for at least six months after the birth of the animal in question and did not develop BSE. It also includes strict rules on the identification of animals and the tracking-back of animals and meat.
The Council reached a political agreement by a qualified majority on the basis of a draft Presidency compromise on a package of seven proposals for Directives (amending Directives 66/400/EEC, 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC, 66/403/EEC, 69/208/EEC, 70/457/EEC and 70/458/EEC) on the marketing of beet seed, fodder plant seed, cereal seed, seed potatoes, seed of oil and fibre plants and vegetable seed and on the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant.
These Directives aim to amend or repeal certain provisions in the existing legislation so as to remove any actual or potential barriers to the free movement of seed in the Community and also to broaden the scope of the existing Directives.
During the debate, the French delegation, supported by several delegations, expressed its concerns with regard to the new farming context which would be brought about by the use of genetically modified plants and asked for comprehensive consideration of the matter. It took the view that this would enable lines of development to be mapped out for the marketing of GMOs and plant protection products linked with them. It would also serve to promote the instruments required in order for consumers to exercise freedom of choice regarding GMOs, in particular through the establishment of GMO and non-GMO production chains, and to develop workable regulatory solutions for that purpose.
AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT
The Council adopted a report to be submitted to the Vienna European Council aiming at environmental integration and sustainable development in the common agricultural policy.
This report was drawn up at the request of the Cardiff European Council, which had asked the various Councils to define their own strategies for giving effect to environmental integration and sustainable development in their respective fields (i.e. agriculture, transport and energy). It aims in particular to start a process of monitoring progress, by identifying indicators and keeping under review the organisational arrangements necessary to carry this forward.
The Council, more specifically,
pointed out that the common agricultural policy had undergone and was still undergoing a continuous process of development and adjustment to social and economic realities and that it had progressively introduced new dimensions taking particular account of the sensitivity of society at large to protection of the environment;
confirmed that environmental protection and sustainable development formed one of the the priority objectives of its legislative activity;
took note of the suggestions of the Danish and Swedish delegations as regards follow-up action to be taken on this matter and decided to return to it when appropriate.
FORESTRY STRATEGY FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Council heard a presentation by Mr FISCHLER concerning the Commission communication on a forestry strategy for the European Union.
According to the Commission, this strategy, which is a response to a request made by the European Parliament at the beginning of 1998, represents an important contribution to the implementation of international commitments on management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. Based on the multifunctional character of forests, the strategy emphasises the problems facing European forests, particularly their contribution to overall economic and social development, especially in rural areas, and to environmental protection, especially with regard to biodiversity and climate change.
The Council, stressing the importance of this subject, asked the Special Committee on Agriculture to start examining it without delay and to report back at its next meeting to allow the Council, if possible, to adopt a Resolution on the question.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH CANADA FOR THE CONCLUSION OF A VETERINARY EQUIVALENCE AGREEMENT
evaluated the outcome of the discussions held with the Canadian authorities with regard to finalisation of the draft veterinary agreement between the EU and Canada;
gave a positive political assessment of the draft agreement as amended and noted that under these conditions there was reason to hope that the negotiations with Canada could be brought to a rapid conclusion;
asked COREPER to complete the technical examination of this draft text to enable it to take a decision on the question at its next meeting.
CRISIS IN RUSSIA: AGRICULTURAL ASPECTS
The Council took stock, on the basis of an oral report by Commissioner FISCHLER and a Commission working paper, of progress in preparatory work for a proposal based on Article 43 of the Treaty and concerning the grant of food aid to Russia. The quantity of the aid, together with distribution methods and the procedure to be followed, have been specified by the Commissioner. In particular, a Memorandum of Understanding will be concluded between the European Union and Russia in order to settle questions such as the use of resources obtained from the sale of products on the Russian market (so as not to disturb the market, the products sent as Community aid will be sold at the market price and the income used within the country for social projects).
The Council, whilst taking note of the report and the delegations' comments on the subject, decided to return to this question as soon as the Commission's proposal was submitted to it and asked the Special Committeee on Agriculture to prepare the deliberations required to reach a decision on the matter.
Furthermore, it asked the Presidency to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the European Parliament's opinion would be available as soon as possible in the light of the urgent situation.
SITUATION ON THE PIGMEAT MARKET
The Council heard a report from the Commission and had an extensive debate on the critical situation on the pigmeat market and the extremely low price level.
The Council is pleased with the initiatives the Commission has taken to date, especially the opening of private storage and the increase in export refunds.
The Council asked the Commission to continue discussions within the Management Committee and to explore appropriate additional measures for restoring the balance of the market in the medium and long term, and to examine all other possible approaches with this in mind.
Adopted without discussion.
The Council adopted a decision authorising the Commisssion to negotiate agreements on the guaranteed prices applicable in the 1998/1999 delivery period to cane sugar originating in the ACP States referred to in Protocol 8 annexed to the Fourth ACP-EC Convention and in India.
INTERNAL MARKET - FOODSTUFFS
Directive on coffee/chicory extracts
The Council decided not to adopt the proposal for a Directive on coffee extracts and chicory extracts as amended by the European Parliament. It was apparent that the Member States were unable to accept all three amendments proposed by the Parliament to the Council's common position, adopted unanimously on 30 April 1998. The Conciliation Committee would consequently be convened in accordance with the rules laid down in the Treaty.
Programme of action on injury prevention
The Council adopted, by a qualified majority with the Netherlands delegation voting against, its common position on a programme of Comunity action in the field of public health for the prevention of injury. The common position will be forwarded to the European Parliament for the second reading, in accordance with the co-decision procedure.
The content of the programme is presented in Press Release No 12736/98 of 12 November 1998.