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EU Agriculture Council emphasises importance of protecting the environment and reducing agents of climate change

Luxembourg, 15 April 2019 – The EU’s ministers of agriculture and fisheries met today at a regular meeting of the Council of the EU. Slovenia was represented by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Aleksandra Pivec. At the forefront of the meeting was a discussion of the Common Agricultural Policy reform package, during which the ministers talked about green architecture (protecting the environment and reducing agents of climate change in agriculture). “This is a significant social priority, which imposes increasing expectations and requirements on agriculture. The CAP must become more ambitious in this area, including the allocation of at least 30% of funds for rural development,” said the minister during the debate. The ministers also discussed the report by Task Force Rural Africa; the minister mentioned Slovenia’s efforts to promote beekeeping and protection of pollinators as an example of good practice in the area of sustainable agricultural practices in the context of climate changes, which could also be an opportunity to promote local food, new jobs and the development of supplementary activities on farms.

The main topic at today’s meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council was a discussion of the CAP reform package, during which the ministers discussed green architecture. The draft regulation on strategic plans includes nine specific objectives, three of which in particular address the environment and climate change. The Commission’s main intent is to strengthen the CAP in the area of environmental protection and adaptation to climate change. During the discussion, Minister Pivec stated that Slovenia supports the increased environmental and climate ambitions of the CAP. “The new system will have to be better adjusted to the conditions in the Member States and take account of their specific problems while being easy to implement.” With regard to the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) standard “Preserving permanent grassland based on the share of permanent grassland”, the minister said that it should only be implemented at the level of the Member States if the share of permanent grassland in a Member State is threatened. “Similarly, Member States, within the framework of the GAEC ‘Prohibition of reallocation or ploughing of permanent grassland in Natura 2000 sites’ should be allowed to limit it to those areas where it is required from the perspective of the protection of the environment and nature.” According to the minister, the automatic prohibition of ploughing or changing the intended use of all permanent grassland areas in Natura 2000 sites is inappropriate for Slovenia, since contrary to the intent of the standard it could lead to a loss of biodiversity due to the abandonment of agriculture.

 With regard to the Commission’s proposal to make eco-schemes under Pillar I compulsory for Member States, Dr Pivec stated that Slovenia does not support this proposal. “Slovenia would back this proposal if the Member States are given enough flexibility in implementing the conditions, including the possibility of permitting exceptions following the current model of green components.” With regard to the question of the contribution of the measures to rural development, the minister noted that Slovenia supports a focus on the environment and climate change through its decision to allocate at least 30% of funds for rural development. “Here it is important that payment for areas with natural constraints is also taken into account, and, if the eco-scheme is compulsory, also the payment for the eco-scheme.” According to the minister, Slovenia is aware that environmental protection and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change are important social priorities and that society has increasing expectations regarding the contributions from agriculture. At the end the minister stated that the key for green architecture will be to provide an appropriate combination of mandatory requirements and additional support for above-standard requirements.
The EU ministers also exchanged opinions today about the report from Task Force Rural Africa, which includes recommendations for cooperation between the European Union and the African Union in the areas of food, agriculture and job creation in agriculture and related industries. In her address, Minister Pivec stated that Slovenia supports the EU’s efforts towards strengthening relations and partnerships between the EU and African countries in the area of agriculture and food production. “We are aware that cooperation with Africa involves equal partnerships and is no longer focused solely on development cooperation. This is both a significant challenge and a great opportunity for the EU.” With regard to cooperation in the area of sustainable agricultural practices in the context of climate change, the minister mentioned Slovenia’s efforts to promote beekeeping and protection of pollinators, from the perspective of both developing sustainable forms of agriculture and creating opportunities for employment and additional income for inhabitants of rural areas in Africa, particularly smallholders, young people and women. “With the establishing of the International Beekeeping Academy, which is one of the activities that followed World Bee Day, Slovenia, by sharing beekeeping knowledge and good practices, is making a significant contribution to the employment and incomes of smallholders and family farmers and to their food security.” The minister added that beekeeping could also be an opportunity for the promotion of local food and the development of supplemental activities on farms.
At the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Slovakian delegation presented information on the joint statements of the agriculture ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia on the post-2020 Renewable Energy Directive. The statement emphasises that the use of biofuels, particularly when they are locally sourced, is one of the most efficient ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Its production is connected to primary agricultural production. The EU ministers also reviewed an initiative today regarding the drafting of a communication on the strengthening of EU measures designed to prevent the clear-cutting and degradation of forests. An initiative from the Dutch delegation calls for a new approach to the coordination of challenges with respect to sustainability, particularly with respect to the climate, biodiversity, reliable food supply and sustainable land use, which must be at the centre of efforts to meet sustainable development targets and the targets of the Paris Agreement.

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