I represented the United Kingdom at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.
The chairman of the Council set out the Slovenian presidency work programme for the next six months. It includes: preparing for the CAP health check; progressing on the cotton support scheme; dairy quotas; work on amendments to the single common market organisation and the animal byproducts regulations; implementation of EU forest action plan; illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and a stock recovery plan for herring in West Scotland.
The Council reached unanimous political agreement on a presidency compromise text on a package of measures designed to simplify the system of cross-compliance. I voted in favour of the compromised text as the package met our negotiating objectives including the abolition of the 10-month rule relating to land used by farmers to support their annual SPS payment claim.
The Council held a discussion, based on a presidency questionnaire, on the Commission’s communication on the CAP health check. I welcomed the Commission’s initiative as an important opportunity to further modernise the CAP and stressed need for greater ambition specifically in full decoupling and the dismantling of all market instruments.
Under any other business, the Agriculture Commissioner updated Council on the state of play in the WTO negotiations. The Council took note of an update provided by the Fisheries Commissioner on the discussions regarding the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Mauritania.
Belgium, supported by a few member states, called on the Commission to find a solution to problems encountered with the new legal provisions for the withdrawal of surplus fruit and vegetables in the transitional year of 2008 following reform of the regime in 2007. The Agriculture Commissioner agreed to bring forward transitional measures to allow the free distribution of surplus fruit and vegetable to charitable institutions and schools.