Katrina Williams, Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, represented the UK at Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 14 and 15 October.
The main item on fisheries policy was fixing the 2020 fishing opportunities in the Baltic sea. Member states agreed on the total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for the 10 most commercially important fish stocks in the Baltic sea. The Council also agreed to supplement the existing partial general approach on the proposal for the next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) post-2020. Elements relating to the monitoring and evaluation of the EMFF were added to the Council’s mandate for its negotiations with the European Parliament.
Member states exchanged views on the EU position for the annual consultation with Norway on the framework of the bilateral fisheries agreement for 2020. The UK intervened in the debate, highlighting the importance of managing joint stocks with Norway in a sustainable way. The Council also exchanged views on the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), scheduled for 18 to 25 November 2019 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
On agriculture, member states discussed the progress report on the work relating to the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package. During the debate, the French delegation presented a common paper on the CAP budget on behalf of a number of member states. Their proposal to maintain the CAP budget at the current EU27 level under the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) received support from a number of delegations.
The Commission updated member states about the latest developments in the most important agricultural markets. Ministers welcomed the outlook in the main market segments, but expressed concerns about the difficulties in the sugar, olive and table olives, beef and rice sectors. In conjunction with the agenda item, the Italian delegation informed the Council on the damage caused by the Asian stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) to its fruit and vegetables sector.
Member states also discussed the potential effects of the recent announcement of the United States to impose additional duties on a list of EU agrifood products as a consequence of the airbus World Trade Organisation (WTO) judgement. The UK called for a united approach to achieve a negotiated settlement. Commissioner Hogan underscored the Commission’s commitment to protect EU food production and geographical indications (GIs), including through intervention and the promotion of aid if necessary.
On forestry, member states held an exchange of views on the Commission’s communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests. Together with other members of the Amsterdam declaration partnership, the UK highlighted the need for action and outlined its own initiatives. The Council also held an exchange of views on the EU forest strategy post-2020 and was informed about a joint statement by various member states on sustainable forestry.
Further items were discussed under ‘any other business’:
The presidency briefed Ministers on the outcome of the European Bioeconomy Scene 2019, which was held in Helsinki on 8 to 10 July. The aim of the conference was to raise public awareness and work towards a sustainable bioeconomy in Europe.
The Slovenian delegation informed the Council about the outcome of the ministerial conference “Strengthening the Generation and Transfer of Knowledge for the Progress of Agriculture and the Rural Areas”, which took place in Ptuj, Slovenia on 23 August 2019. The outcome was a joint declaration, which sets out a proposal for promoting the transfer of knowledge and innovation in the agricultural sector.
The Commission updated the Council on the current situation on African swine fever (ASF), asking member states to consider increasing national measures. Czechia presented a declaration on combatting ASF, calling for further multinational collaboration, additional EU co-funding and intensified research.
The French delegation presented a joint declaration on wolf management on behalf of a number of member states. The signatory member states asked the Commission to consider their concerns when revising the guidance on the protection of species under the habitats directive, providing flexibility in the sustainable management of wolf populations.
The Commission updated member states about the state of play on major issues in food safety, outlining the most important achievements of its term. This included the overhaul of the official controls legislation, improvements to animal health law and animal welfare, improved plant health legislation, and risk assessment in the food chain. In the context of the debate, the Belgian delegation gave an overview of the recent cases of Listeria monocytogenes in the EU, stressing the need to increase collaboration in order to detect transboundary outbreaks earlier.