I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 18 June.
The Council discussed the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF) budget for 2021-27, and agreed a partial general approach. The EMFF is part of the wider EU multiannual financial framework 2021-2027, and is intended to ensure the proper implementation of the common fisheries policy’s objectives. While there was disagreement about the level of support for certain aspects of the fund, such as engine replacement and vessel acquisition, Council approved the partial general approach with a qualified majority. Although the EMFF will not apply to the UK once we have left the EU, I supported the proposal in line with the position adopted by the majority of member states.
The Commission then briefed the Council on the progress of the common fisheries policy (CFP) and consultation on fishing opportunities for 2020. While there were a number of successes such as record profits for the industry and improved governance of fisheries through multi-annual plans, the Commission also outlined that challenges remained. In 2020 it will be the first year that all stocks must meet maximum sustainable yield (MSY) while the full implementation of the landing obligation (LO) continues. In an exchange of views, member states generally welcomed the Commission communication and restated their commitment to the CFP objectives. I intervened to express the UK’s support for maximising stocks at MSY, but noted that certain exceptions are necessary, such as in mixed fisheries whereby catches must be managed appropriately and in consideration of low volume quota species. I also called for a formal review of the landing obligation to inform how compliance can be improved.
In public session the Council discussed a presidency progress report on the common agricultural policy (CAP) post 2020 reform package. Open questions across all three CAP legislative files meant that a Council partial general approach on the texts could not be reached at this stage. Most delegations marked areas where they wanted further debate under the incoming Finnish presidency. These include the new delivery model which would give member states more flexibility in the way they use EU funds, achieving environmental outcomes, the exemption of small farmers from conditionality, voluntary coupled support/market orientation, and gender equality.
A number of items were discussed under “any other business”:
The Lithuanian delegation informed Council of the parlous state of the cod stock in the eastern Baltic sea. Lithuania urged the Commission to present an emergency support package for fisheries relying on eastern Baltic cod, including direct EMFF support.
The Commission informed member states about the joint recommendations under article 11 of the CFP regulation in the field of environmental legislation (habitats and birds directives). The Commission highlighted that only a few joint recommendations on fisheries conservation measures had been submitted so far and encouraged member states to submit further joint recommendations.
The Spanish delegation informed Council about the outcome of the congress on the post-2020 CAP green architecture which focused on the environmental and climate change challenges faced by European agriculture.