October Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council was held on 19-20 October in Luxembourg. Political agreement was reached on Common Fisheries Policy Controls and on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in the Baltic Sea. Talks relating to agriculture were once again focused on the current dairy situation, with a proposal for emergency aid for the sector, which has since been approved by the Commission, and the adoption of a regulation extending the intervention period for butter and skimmed milk powder. Other outcomes for agriculture included the adoption of a regulation modifying the current marketing standards for poultry meat and there was further indecision by Member States on the matter of GMO feed imports.

New fisheries regulations agreed

EU Ministers agreed on a control Regulation that will enter into force on 1 January 20101. A new system of penalty points and warnings will be put in place, allowing ships to be banned from EU waters following a small number of infractions. Provisions which enable Community subsidies to be suspended in the event of non-compliance by Member States were also adopted, as well as a payback system for overfished quotas. However, the Council did not agree to harmonise fines for illegal fishing across Member States, or to include the catches of threatened fish species (such as cod in the North Sea) by recreational anglers within national quotas.

The Council also reached agreement on the proposed fishing opportunities for 2010 for the Baltic Sea. Following signs that cod stocks are recovering, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) were increased by 15 per cent and nine per cent for the eastern and western stocks respectively1. However, TACs for sprat, salmon, and the western and central herring stocks were all reduced. In addition, evidence pointing to an increase in high-grading drove the Council to approve a ban on high-grading throughout the Baltic Sea.

Dairy crisis: Commission yields to G21

Pressure applied by the G21 (the previous G20 group, with the new addition of Greece) coupled with months of dairy protests appear to have paid off, as Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel announced that she was ‘prepared to propose’ €280 million in emergency aid to the dairy sector. The one-off deal for the sector, taken from the 2010 CAP budget, is to be allocated according to Member State current milk production and is intended to ‘put an end to dairy protestors in the streets’. The deal has since been approved by the Commission in an Amending Letter to the Preliminary Draft Budget.

Fischer Boel released the funds somewhat grudgingly, as this deal means that any flexibility in the 2010 budget has now been removed. As a €300m ‘buffer’ must be maintained in the budget in order to avoid the deployment of the financial discipline mechanism, the Agriculture purse is now empty. In real terms this means that no money is now left for other agricultural sectors if they were suddenly confronted with an emergency.

Nevertheless, the move was welcomed by the French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, and his German and Italian counterparts, who together comprise the key dairy countries lobbying the EU. European farm representatives Copa-Cogeca also praised the measure, pledging their full support to the G21 initiative. However, UK Minister Jim Fitzpatrick questioned the purpose in finding ‘yet new funds for the dairy sector’, stating that the ‘UK would not support anything that takes us backwards to a regime of heavy market support for inefficient dairy producers at the expense of taxpayers and consumers’.

Other agriculture issues

Besides the discussion on the dairy crisis, the Council also managed to conclude a long-standing dossier attempting to change the labelling rules for poultry meat preparations. As the law stands at the moment, it is legal to label poultry meat preparations as ‘fresh’ even if they have been previously frozen. The new agreement - to take effect in May 2010 – revises this standard. Only the UK refused to back the proposals on the grounds that they were ‘disproportionate’, and potentially damaging to the chilled meat preparations market. The extended timeline for the implementation of rules represent the compromise reached.

Another key topic discussed at the Council was the proposed authorisation of three varieties of genetically modified maize, including the variety at the centre of the row over EU imports of US soya (MON 88017). However, a deadlock vote remained on the proposed authorisation of MON88017 maize, MON89034 and Pioneer’s 59122xNK603 for import and processing. Only 13 Member States (CZ, PT, FI, RO, BG, EE, UK, MT, SK, NL, ES, SE) backed the approval of the contentious MON 88017, with ten votes against the motion and abstentions by key Member States France, Germany, Italy and Ireland. The dossier will therefore now be passed to the Commission for adoption, further dragging out the authorisation process.

References

  1. Council of the European Union, 2966th Council meeting Agriculture and Fisheries Luxembourg, 19 October 2009,14599/09
  2. EUObserver, EU imposes stricter sanctions on illegal fishing, 21/10/2009
  3. Europa Press Release, Mariann Fischer Boel at the Session of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 19 October 2009
  4. Agra Facts No 82-09 (19 October 2009)
  5. Agra Europe ‘Latest EU Farm Council Wrap’ (19 October 2009)

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PUBLICATION DATE

03 Nov 2009

AUTHOR

IEEP

FURTHER INFORMATION

The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.