The Minister with responsibility for food, farming and environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), and the Minister with responsibility for marine and natural environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 29 March.
The presidency tabled presidency conclusions on the food supply chain in Europe, acknowledging that the distance between member states on issues related to the CAP and competition rules, and the treatment of producer organisations, was unbridgeable. The four dissenting member states—UK, Sweden, Denmark and Czech Republic—all confirmed their opposition to Council conclusions, but noted that there was much common ground on wider aspects of the text.
France recorded a number of observations underpinning the presidency text, while other member states took the floor to support the presidency and to press issues. Commissioner Ciolos, endorsing the presidency text, noted the need for proposals to deal with medium and long-term issues related to the food supply chain, including competition policy. The presidency recorded that while much of the text had been agreed unanimously, unamended presidency conclusions would be adopted with the support of a majority of member states.
Following discussion on the reform of market management measures for the post-2013 CAP at the February Council, the presidency adopted presidency conclusions, branded informally “trio conclusions” on behalf of the present and incoming Belgian and Hungarian presidencies. The conclusions recorded the prevailing view among Ministers that the current CAP market orientation was sufficient, and that the existing market management regime should be retained as a safety net.
Commissioner Ciolos observed that the conclusions were merely the beginning of a debate on the future of market management, which would inform the wider debate on CAP reform post-2013. The presidency stated that its conclusions were supported by the majority, and that there would be an opportunity for further discussion of CAP reform at the informal Council on 1 June.
Commissioner Ciolos then presented the latest iteration of its quarterly dairy market report, and noted the recovery in the sector since 2008.
Next, the presidency facilitated a discussion on the relationship between Europe 2020 and the CAP, providing Ministers with a questionnaire which solicited their views on the CAP’s contribution to Europe 2020 objectives. They also noted that the European Council had adopted a specific conclusion in respect of the relationship between Europe 2020 and the CAP, observing that the CAP “will need” to support Europe 2020.
The Commission noted that Europe 2020 was not intended to undermine existing EU policies. The CAP would continue, subject to reform, and in conformity with the provisions of the Lisbon treaty. The CAP should also meet the three objectives set out in Europe 2020: smart, inclusive, and green economic growth. It also suggested that Agriculture Council should feed the European Council ideas on how CAP reform could feed into Europe 2020 with a view to consideration at the June European Council.
A full table round developed with a predictable split between those member states who believed that Europe 2020 was inexcusably silent on the contribution of the CAP to the growth of the European economy; and those that believed that the CAP would need to prove its worth through reform in support of Europe 2020 objectives. Each camp interpreted the European Council conclusion on the CAP and Europe 2020 as support for its own particular. The presidency concluded that it would be important to consider the Agriculture Council’s contribution to the June European Council, where Europe 2020 would be adopted. It would outline its plans in due course.
Under any other business, Italy raised concerns about implementing the 2006 Regulation On Mediterranean Fisheries Management, which was causing serious difficulties for operators and there should be some reconsideration of how this should be done. Commissioner Damanaki was robust in saying that many Mediterranean stocks were not being sustainably fished and that member states had had more than three years to implement this regulation.
Malta, with some support, raised concerns about some member states voting differently to the agreed EU position on bluefin tuna at CITES and the difficult position this had left them in with their fishing industry. Commissioner Potocnik drew some general conclusions, including the need for the EU to up its game on external representation and reserved the right to take all necessary measures in relation to this specific case. The UK registered disappointment that CITES was unable to agree to protect bluefin tuna.
France brought to Ministers’ attention the forthcoming agriculture ministerial meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean in Cairo, 15 and 16 June, and encouraged Ministers to attend.
Austria presented its paper recording the outcome of the recent OECD agricultural ministerial, highlighting Ministers’ acknowledgment of the climate security challenges facing agriculture.
Commissioner Ciolos noted that there were no significantly new elements to discuss regarding the WTO/DDA. However, as a new Commissioner, and as agricultural negotiator, Ciolos wanted to reaffirm his own commitment to a balanced conclusion to the round.