The UK was represented by deputy permanent representative to the European Union, Shan Morgan, at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 10 October in Luxembourg.
Commissioner Vella gave a presentation on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), which focused on the poor and deteriorating state of the swordfish stock. He noted that immediate and remedial action was needed, including the introduction of a catch quota. A number of member states intervened with differing support or opposition. The presidency concluded by noting the positions, and said a more detailed preparation of the EU position would take place at working group level.
Commissioner Vella promised full transparency for the EU/Norway fisheries negotiations, as well as discussions with coastal states which feed in to this. He wanted to ensure a balance between the interests of different member states, in particular those who wanted to maximise the quota for arctic cod and those who have traditionally had to pay for it in terms of exchange of quotas with Norway. A number of member states, including the UK, underlined the importance of accessing additional quota for choke species, to avoid any disruption connected to the introduction of the landing obligation.
The Council also agreed on the 2017 catch quotas in the Baltic.
Commissioner Hogan presented the omnibus regulation, as a tool for simplification of the four common agricultural policy regulations. The Commission wants the regulation to enter into force by 1 January 2018, so that there are three years of stability before the next multi-annual financial framework. The main proposals include: a sector-specific income stabilisation tool; simpler rules for loans and financial instruments aimed at young farmers; an optional national flexibility of the “active farmer” definition; and easing the process for undue payments. Most member states indicated that they needed more time to assess the details and submit comments, but noted some proposals were not simplification. The UK welcomed flexibility on the active farmer definition, and wider access to the income support tool. Commissioner Hogan underlined that this regulation was a big opportunity but that all comments would be taken on board.
Any other business items
Items on the market situation and sugar were taken together. Commissioner Hogan made a presentation on the current market situation, noting that the milk market observatory had reported an improvement in the dairy market, and the milk production reduction scheme will further improve the situation. He also made it clear that sugar quotas will come to an end in October 2017.
Poland presented a joint statement which it had co-ordinated outlining concerns of new greening proposals. This was supported in advance by 18 other member states, including the UK. Commissioner Hogan understood a number of measures were not supported, and offered four concessions which will be discussed at the next Special Committee on Agriculture.
Austria argued that international financial institutions are not taking animal welfare in to account when they make lending decisions.
Slovenia reported from their conference entitled “The Customer has the Right to know”, which highlighted the advantages of country of origin labelling.
The Council took note of the Dutch presentation outlining the conclusions of the 39th conference of directors of paying agencies.
Commissioner Hogan gave a short explanation on a European Court of Justice case (C-113/14), and confirmed that the necessary amendments to the fixing regulation were being arranged as quickly as possible.