I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg on 19 June 2006.
The Council adopted a proposal confirming the overall rural development budget for 2007-13, and the annual breakdown including the minimum amount to be concentrated in regions eligible under the convergence objective. I supported the Council decision while expressing the UK’s disappointment at the Commission's allocation method which based future funding on historic records.
The Council took note of an update from the Commission on the latest state of play on the WTO agricultural negotiations and held an exchange of views. The Commissioner said that the EU was looking for an outcome that would be manageable for European farming and that the EU offer from last October still stands. I said that getting a deal was in the interest of EU citizens and stressed the importance of unity to achieving a successful outcome.
The Council took note of a presentation by the Agriculture Commissioner of the proposed EU forest action plan and held its first exchange of views. The plan is designed to improve implementation of the EU’s existing forest strategy. Finland would aim for Council conclusions on the subject during its upcoming presidency.
The Council held a public debate on the Commission's animal welfare action plan. I stressed the importance of a strategic framework for both the industry and consumers and urged the Commission not to view legislation as the only option to raising welfare standards but to consider other ways as well, such as codes of practice and assurance schemes.
The Council held a policy debate on the presidency’s work plan on the welfare of chickens reared for meat production, aiming to tackle outstanding issues on the Commission’s proposal. I called for a firm commitment to the establishment of a maximum stocking density of 38 kg per square metre within a specified timetable to ensure a level playing field across the EU for producers and achieve real welfare improvements. The presidency said that further work would be undertaken by the incoming Finnish presidency.
Under any other business, the Council took note of the presidency conclusions following the May Informal Agriculture Council discussions, on “Land, Life and the Future of European Farmers”.
The Council also took note of an update on avian influenza by the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection and of the written information provided by the Austrian presidency on the sixth UN forum on forests.
The Czech Republic called on member states to support the UN Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare which had been drawn up by a five-nation Government Steering Committee (Costa Rica, Kenya, Czech Republic, India, and the Philippines.).
Latvia, supported by the Netherlands, queried an element of the Commission's sugar reform implementation scheme which would require sugar companies to pay securities in order to access the restructuring scheme. The Commission pointed out that the rules enabled member states to make payments in advance and for securities to be released gradually as measures in the plan were carried out.