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Conseil/99/412

14067/99 (Presse 412)

Brussels, 14 December 1999

2236th Council meeting

- AGRICULTURE -

Brussels, 14 December 1999

President: Mr Kalevi HEMILÄ

Minister for Agriculture of the Republic of Finland

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS

ITEMS DEBATED

Decisions for which statements for the Council minutes have been made available to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.

For further information call 285.78.33 or 285.68.08

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium :

Mr Jean-Louis SIXDeputy Permanent Representative
Denmark :
Mr Henrik DAM KRISTENSENMinister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
Mr Poul OTTOSENState Secretary, Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
Germany :
Mr Karl-Heinz FUNKEFederal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Forestry
Mr Martin WILLEState Secretary, Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry
Greece :
Mr Yiorgos ANOMERITISMinister for Agriculture
Spain :
Mr Jesus POSADA MORENOMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
France :
Mr Jean GLAVANYMinister for Agriculture and Fisheries
Ireland :
Mr Joe WALSHMinister for Agriculture and Food
Italy :
Mr Paolo DE CASTROMinister for Agriculture Policies
Luxembourg :
Mr René HARPESDirector at the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development
Netherlands :
Mr Laurens-Jan BRINKHORSTMinister for Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries
Austria :
Mr Wilhelm MOLTERERFederal Minister for Agriculture and Forestry
Portugal :
Mr Luis CAPOULAS SANTOSMinister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries
Finland :
Mr Kalevi HEMILÄMinister for Agriculture
Sweden :
Ms Margareta WINBERGMinister for Agriculture
Mr Per-Göran ÖJEHEIMState Secretary for Agriculture

United-Kingdom :

Mr Nick BROWNMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Mr Ross FINNIEMinister for Rural Affairs of the Scottish Executive
Commission :
Mr Franz FISCHLERMember
Mr David BYRNEMember

BEEF LABELLING - Council conclusions

The Council, after having examined the Commission proposal aiming at postponing for one year (from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2000) the introduction of a compulsory beef labelling system and maintaining during this period the voluntary labelling scheme provided for in Regulation 820/97/EC, has adopted by qualified majority the following conclusions:

    "1. The Council agrees on the following common orientation: the Commission proposal is acceptable without any other amendment than the addition of Article 37 to Article 152 paragraph 4(b) as a legal basis.

    2. Should the opinion which will be delivered by the European Parliament within the first reading of the co-decision procedure correspond to the above common orientation, the Council shall accept this outcome and therefore adopt the proposed act thus amended.

    3. If this were not the case, the legislative act could not be adopted before 31 December 1999.

    4. The Council notes that in this hypothesis the Commission intends to submit a proposal having the same objective but based on Article 19 paragraph 1 of Regulation 820/97/EC.

    5. The Council has considered a working document prepared by the Commission services in this perspective and noted a large majority in favour of the substance of the text.

    6. Should the Commission submit a formal proposal for a Council Regulation corresponding to the text of the working document which received the support of the Council, the Council shall adopt such proposed Regulation before 31 December 1999.

    7. The Council will do its utmost in order to have a decision on the labelling system as early as possible, in co-operation with the European Parliament."

GOODS NOT COVERED BY ANNEX I TO THE TREATY - Council conclusions

The Council held an in-depth discussion of the export refund system for agricultural products exported in the form of non-Annex I goods, in the light in particular of the regulations adopted by the Commission, and referred to it in accordance with the appropriate procedures (1). At the end of the debate, the Council reached the following conclusions - which France, Ireland and the Netherlands could not share :

"The Council stresses the importance of observing budgetary discipline, and in particular of respecting the ceilings laid down by the Berlin European Council, and recalls the Community's binding commitments in the WTO.

With a view to ensuring compliance with these limits, the Council, while not taking position on Commission Regulation No 2533/1999, No 2534/1999 and No 2535/1999, considers that any necessary savings should be brought about by targeted measures. In this respect, and in order to improve the export refund system for products exported in the form of non-Annex I goods, the Council instructs the Special Committee on Agriculture to examine speedily:

    - the orientations contained in the Commission's communication to the Council on Goods not covered by Annex I to the Treaty - Specific measures and inward processing;

    - the proposal to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 1255/1999 on the common organisation of the market in milk and milk products,

together with possible suggestions from Member States regarding these texts, and to report back to the Council as soon as possible, at the very latest by March 2000. The Council will take a decision on the proposed amendment to the dairy CMO as soon as it has received the opinion of the European Parliament.

The Council requests the Commission to monitor closely the development of the export market for products exported in the form of non-Annex I goods and the relevant budgetary situation, and to report to the Council before the end of June 2000."

COTTON REGIME

The Council took note of the presentation by Commissioner FISCHLER on the proposal aiming at reforming the current system of aid for cotton and noted the preliminary observations made by some Member States. It instructed the Special Committee on Agriculture to examine the proposals in detail and report back as quickly as possible.

The Commission proposal, whilst maintaining the levels of the guide price and the minimum price as well as the guaranteed national quantities, envisages the following main elements:

    - increase of the automatic stabiliser to 0.6% (instead of currently 0.5%) of the guide price for each 1% overrun of the national guaranteed quantity in order to bring down the current level of expenditure;

    - simplification of the present regime by gathering the general principles in Protocol 4 annexed to the Act of Accession of Greece and the provisions on production aid for cotton in one single Council regulation;

    - objective environmental criteria to be drawn up by Member States and, where necessary, restriction of eligibility for the aid to certain areas;

    - report by Member States on the impact of national environmental measures on the sector.

MAXIMUM RESIDUE LIMITS OF VETERINARY MEDICINAL PRODUCTS IN FOODSTUFFS OF ANIMAL ORIGIN

The Council was informed by the Commission on the possible solutions to the problem of lack of maximum residue limits of veterinary medicinal products in foodstuffs originating from horses and secondary species.

The following conclusions were agreed:

    "1. The Council re-emphasises the conclusions from the Agriculture Council in May concerning the Commission's proposal for the amendment of Regulation (EEC) No 2377/90.

    2. The Council took note of the Commission's intention to submit - as agreed in June 1999 - a proposal for the amendment of Regulation (EEC) No 2377/90 laying down a Community procedure for the establishment of maximum residue limits of veterinary medicinal products in foodstuffs of animal origin.

    3. The Council and the Commission are committed to reaching a decision on the above-mentioned proposal at the earliest possible moment."

MATERIAL PRESENTING RISKS AS REGARDS TSEs *

The Council, having received from the Commission a proposal for a decision amending decision 97/534/EC on the prohibition of the use of material presenting risks as regards transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, voted on this proposal as amended by the Presidency in agreement with the Commission.

The President noted a qualified majority, the Portuguese delegation voting against, in favour of this amended proposal which postpones until 30 June 2000 the application of Decision 97/534/EC. The proposal in question was therefore adopted.

TRANSMISSIBLE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHIES

The Council took note of progress achieved on the examination of a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) laying down the rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and a Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 91/68/EEC. The texts were generally considered as an appropriate basis for further work.

The Council instructed COREPER to continue accordingly the examination of this issue with a view to allowing the Council to take a formal position once the Opinion of the European Parliament, within the first reading of the co-decision procedure, will be delivered.

MARKETING OF FOREST REPRODUCTIVE MATERIAL

The Council reached a political agreement by qualified majority, on the basis of a Presidency compromise, on a Directive on the marketing of forest reproductive material. Denmark announced its intention to vote against, at the moment of formal adoption, which will take place at a further session, after legal/linguistic revision.

The Directive aims at updating to technical progress the existing rules, modified for the last time in 1975, and at adapting it to the accession of Sweden and Finland. These two Member States, according to the Accession Treaty, have been allowed a five-year exemption to the Community rules in this field.

In relation to forest reproductive material consisting of genetically modified organisms, the Directive stipulates that, while awaiting a proposal and the following approval of specific rules equivalent to those laid down in Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms this latter Directive shall apply, in addition to the marketing rules.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

AGRICULTURE

Quota for tomato concentrate

The Council adopted an amendment to Regulation (EC) n° 2201/96 on the common organisation of the market in processed fruit and vegetable products. The amendment puts into effect the Conclusions of the Council meeting of 14-15 June 1999 on the price package 1999/2000 and aims at adapting the Portuguese tomato concentrate quota for the 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 marketing years, taking into account the particularly unfavourable climatic events occurred in that country in the 1997/98 harvest.

Milk for human consumption

The Council adopted an amendment to Regulation (EC) n° 2596/97 extending the period provided for in Article 149(1) of the Act of Accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden. The amendment aims at prolonging by four years the transitional measures as regards the minimum fat content of milk intended for human consumption in Finland and Sweden and follows the Conclusions of the Council meeting of 14/15 June 1999 on the price package 1999/2000.

Arable crops - non food *

The Council adopted, with the abstention of the British delegation, an amendment to Regulation (EC) n° 1251/99 establishing a support system for producers of certain arable crops. The amendment provides for a possible corrective mechanism to reduce the amount of by-products - obtained from the manufacture of non-food products from arable crops grown on set aside land - which may be put to a feed or food use, if the total quantity of such by-products exceeds the limit of 1 million metric tonnes, expressed in soya meal equivalent. This will allow for appropriate corrective actions to be taken, when necessary, in compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding on certain oilseeds between the European Community and the United States of America within the framework of the GATT.

Information and promotion in third countries *

Following the political agreement reached on 15 November 1999 the Council adopted a Regulation on measures to promote and provide information on agricultural products in third countries.

The Regulation will support the adaptation of the European agri-food sector to decreasing export refunds through greater competitiveness, placing an increased accent on the quality and safety of its products. Measures envisaged include promotional or publicity measures, participation at events, fairs or exhibitions of international importance, information campaigns, studies of new markets and high-level trade visits. The Regulation will be enforced as from 1.1.2000 and will apply until 31.12.2004.

National aid to small producers in Austria *

The Council adopted a Decision relating to the granting of a national aid by the Austrian Government to small producers in less-favoured areas by virtue of Annex XV relating to Article 151 of the Act of Accession of Austria.

According to the Decision, the scheme for maintaining the aids described in the "Special Directive concerning the granting of compensatory allowances in less-favoured areas and national aid" as forwarded to the Commission on 26 October 1995, shall be deemed compatible with the common market until 31 December 2004, providing as it does that if the calculation of the (EU) compensatory allowance to be granted to a holding as from 1995 results in a smaller amount of aid for a holding than it received under this scheme in 1993 (i.e. prior to accession), the balance shall be made up in the form of national aid.

Veterinary agreement - Andorra

The Council adopted a Decision on the arrangements for implementing the Protocol on veterinary matters signed in Brussels on 15 May 1997supplementing the Agreement in the form of exchange of letters between the European Economic Community and the Principality of Andorra signed in Luxembourg on 28 June 1990.

The implementing arrangements aim at maintaining traditional flows of trade in live animals and animal products and promoting the development of new flows, in compliance with Community veterinary rules. It contains a list of Community legislation to be applied by Andorra without prejudice to the application of safeguard measures, especially for cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Antibiotic resistance *

The Council adopted the following conclusions on "further action in the framework of the strategy against antimicrobial resistance" :

"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

REAFFIRMING the principles of the Council Resolution of 8 June 1999 on antibiotic resistance "A strategy against the microbial threat" and aiming at ensuring its coordinated and effective implementation, further development and follow-up;

RECALLING the Council Regulation (EC) No 2821/98 of 17 December 1998 and the earlier directives amending Directive 70/524/EEC concerning additives in feedingstuffs, which withdrew the authorisation of certain antibiotics with the intention of restricting the use of them to human and veterinary medicine;

Underlining the importance of the opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee of the European Communities of 28 May 1999 on antimicrobial resistance;

TAKING NOTE of the report of the Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products of 14 July 1999 on antibiotic resistance in the European Union associated with therapeutic use of Veterinary Medicines;

Recognising that the Commission has taken certain measures such as starting a antimicrobial resistance surveillance programme and monitoring the consumption of antimicrobials in animal nutrition sector;

Recognising that the Commission is taking several measures, in close cooperation with the Member States and in consultation with the EMEA, contributing to the prudent use of medicinal products for human and veterinary use;

Recognising that the Member States have taken certain measures such as monitoring antimicrobial resistance and the consumption of antimicrobials;

RECALLING that the Council invited the Commission to submit a report before 30 June 1999 on all public health, economic and legal implications of the antibiotic resistance issue with regard to the external dimension;

EMPHASISES that reducing the need for antimicrobial therapy and prophylaxis and focusing on their prudent use are effective ways to decrease the use of antimicrobials;

STRESSES the importance of this problem from the public health point of view and of the impact of the misuse of antimicrobials in the treatment of human disease;

CALLS UPON THE MEMBER STATES

to promote programmes for the prevention and control of infectious diseases for all types of health care settings, hospitals in particular, as well as for different institutions providing care, e.g. day-care centres for children and nursing homes for the elderly;

to take action to reduce the risk of infection in the human population e.g. by encouragement of uptake of immunisations, education regarding hygiene, and training of health professionals;

to promote the prevention and control of animal infectious diseases by encouraging the implementation of health control programmes, including e.g. vaccination schemes and improvement of rearing conditions, at farm level;

to ensure tight controls on the sale, supply and distribution of antimicrobials through enforcement of the legal classification of prescription status of medicinal products for human and veterinary use, and to review mechanisms in place for the control of sales, supply and distribution of antimicrobials as well as to eliminate inducements, e.g. financial, which encourage the inappropriate use of antimicrobials;

to promote drawing up best practice guidelines on prudent use of antimicrobials in human and veterinary medicine in appropriate co-operation with other Member States and the Commission taking into account local epidemiological and antimicrobial resistance development, and to promote informing of professionals and the general public about these principles in an appropriate manner;

INVITES THE COMMISSION

to explore possibilities of establishing Community legislation regarding monitoring of the consumption of antimicrobials of all forms of usage, whether human, animal, plant or other relevant use, in all Member States and reporting the quantities consumed annually to the Commission in a comparable way;

to ensure that the surveillance system, which is being developed in accordance with the Decision 98/2119/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council setting up a network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases in the Community, pays attention to diseases caused by micro-organisms which are resistant to antimicrobials;

to consider the possibility of implementing EU-wide coordination of micro-organism collection and of susceptibility testing methods to monitor resistance patterns over time for use both in human and veterinary medicine;

to propose a framework for carrying out harmonised surveillance programmes on antimicrobial resistance in animals and foodstuffs, and to ensure reporting of these results to the Commission, which should draw the conclusions on the overall situation and possible measures needed on the Community level;

to ensure co-operation and consultation between all Community sectors as well as coordination between information systems involved in questions concerning antimicrobial resistance along the principles formulated in Council Resolution 8458/99 of 8 June 1999, and to report on the activities undertaken;

to stimulate research within the implementation of the Fifth Research Framework Programme into methods for determining and quantifying the impact of antimicrobial resistance on human mortality and morbidity, into assessment of the impact of the interventions aiming to decrease antimicrobial resistance, into animal health relating to these issues as well as encouraging research by the private sector in this field, taking into account the priorities listed in the Council Resolution on antibiotic resistance of 8 June 1999;

to widen the principle of prohibiting the use of antimicrobial growth promoters from classes which are used in human or veterinary medicine to be applied also for antimicrobial agents that are under development to be used in human or veterinary medicine (Directive 70/524/EEC) taking into account an appropriate risk assessment;

to give as soon as possible a report on external dimension of the antibiotic resistance issue taking into account the principle mentioned in the previous indent; and to propose regulatory action on a basis of risk assessment concerning introduction of resistant bacteria through animals, meat or food imported from third countries;

to propose as soon as possible necessary changes on basis of the Directive 70/524/EEC on additives in feedingstuffs in order to gradually replace antimicrobial growth promoters by non-antimicrobial alternatives and to promote changes in animal production practises that will improve animal health and welfare;

to discourage the use of antimicrobials for plant production as well as for other relevant areas and to prohibit such use of antimicrobials if it may constitute a risk for human or animal health on a basis of risk assessment, and if antimicrobials of the same classes are currently used or are under development to be used in human or veterinary medicine."

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Relations with the associated CCEEs - rules of origin

The Council adopted three decisions on the Community's positions concerning amendments to the respective Protocoles Nr 4 on the definition of the concept of "originating products and administrative co-operation" annexed to the Europe agreements between the EC and

- the Republic of Slovenia

- the Czech Republic

- the Republic of Hungary.

The proposed amendments are designed to make certain new technical adjustments to the system of pan-European cumulation of rules of origin introduced in the first half of 1997 and amended in early 1999 with a view to extending its scope and improving its operation in certain respects.

(1) The Regulations establish a temporary across-the-board 4,5% reduction in export refunds for certain agricultural products exported in the form of non-Annex I goods : =Commission Regulation (EC) No 2533/1999 (sugar)=Commission Regulation (EC) No 2534/1999 (dairy products)=Commission Regulation (EC) No 2535/1999 (cereals and rice)They were referred to the Council following the unfavourable opinion of the joint Management Committee on milk and milk products, cereals and sugar on 25 November 1999. According to the procedure, the Council could, within one month, take a different decision from that taken by the Commission.


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