I represented the UK at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 26 January in Brussels. Rebecca Evans AM and Richard Lochhead MSP were also present.
Multiannual plan for fisheries in the Baltic sea
Commissioner Vella presented the proposal for a multiannual plan (MAP) for fisheries in the Baltic sea. I welcomed the proposal as it would be an important tool for achieving the aims of the reformed common fisheries policy but stressed the need for it to reinforce regionalisation. I argued that the inclusion of maximum sustainable yield ranges in the MAP did not infringe on the Council’s competence to set total allowable catches. France, Italy, Belgium and Spain however raised concerns that the proposal would impinge on the Council’s competence. France also raised issues with the current formulation of the proposed delegated acts.
AOB: The “Omnibus Regulation” implementing the landing obligation
The presidency affirmed that they wanted to reach an early deal with the European Parliament (EP) on the “Omnibus Regulation” removing legislative impediments to the implementation of the landing obligation. They asked member states if they could support a deal which prevented any weakening of the regulation, but included, at the request of the EP, a new obligation on member states to submit annual reports on the implementation of the landing obligation. I, along with a number of other member states, supported an early deal, subject to minimising the potential administrative burden of the new proposed reporting obligations. I also stressed, with support from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and Malta, that we did not want to see responsibility for dealing with undersized fish being placed on to the member states as a part of a final deal.
Pig meat trade with Russia
The presidency accepted Poland’s request for a discussion on the recent reports that some member states had been approached by Russia to reopen bilateral trade on pig meat. Poland along with the Baltic member states argued that the Russian ban on EU agriculture products was imposed simultaneously on all member states and therefore should be lifted in the same manner. I supported Poland and the Baltics and stressed that the EU should be united in its approach to Russia. Commissioner Andriukaitis argued that bilateral trade deals with Russia were unacceptable and that the Commission would not tolerate discrimination between member states.
Market developments, including the effects of the Russian import ban
There was a discussion on the situation in various market sectors. On dairy, Commissioner Hogan announced that private storage aid (PSA) for butter and skimmed milk powder would remain open until September 2015 but rejected calls for PSA for cheese. He agreed to consider the issue of staggered payment of milk super levy at the March Council, when more complete production figures for 2014-15 would be available. He also confirmed that he was considering what EU action could be taken to tackle exploitation in the supply chain. On fruit and vegetables, Commissioner Hogan maintained that the current measures were sufficient. On pig meat, however, he accepted they might have to consider new measures. In response to Italy’s concerns about falling EU sugar prices, Commissioner Hogan argued that the EU had benefited from historically high EU prices and underlined that producers had had many years to prepare for the end of quotas.