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EU agriculture ministers on CAP simplifications and the consumer’s right to be informed

Luxembourg, 10 October 2016 – The EU ministers responsible for agriculture met today for the EU Council meeting under the Slovak Presidency. Today’s meeting focused on a discussion on the proposal for the Omnibus Regulation amending the basic regulations in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Slovenia’s representative was the Minister of Agriculture, Dejan Židan, who drew attention to the need for clear information provided to the consumer on the origin of raw materials and to the importance of simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy in the broadest sense of the word. In the evening, the ministers are to discuss items regarding fisheries, the most important being a discussion on setting quotas for certain fish stocks applicable in the Baltic Sea for 2017.

At today’s meeting, the ministers were informed about the part of the "Omnibus" draft regulation amending the basic regulations of the Common Agricultural Policy (direct payments, the rural development programme, single common market organisation and common financial provisions). According to the Commission, the issue here is the simplification of legislation and greater flexibility, and the Omnibus proposals are due to be in place in 2018. The proposals are related to direct payments and the definition of the active farmer in the single area payment scheme (SAPS), rural development and the definition of the young farmer. Many of the simplifications relate to the use of financial instruments, to promote their use. Also new are measures for income risk management which, according to the new proposals, may be formed by sectors, with less burdens and an increased flexibility. Simplifications in the management of import quotas are also planned, changes being related to public procurement procedures and simplification of the procedure for financial discipline (year-on-year transfer of crisis reserve funds) and abolishment of the 50/50 rule for repayment of means unduly paid after the expiry of set deadlines. In the discussion, Minister Židan welcomed the proposed simplifications, in particular regarding direct payments, especially regarding the active farmer: "We are satisfied with the supplemented definition of the young farmer in rural development, with changes regarding the implementation of financial instruments and with the measure for income risk management,” he commented. In this regard, the minister added that Slovenia supported the proposed simplifications of the financial discipline procedure: "We also hope for a simplification of the financial discipline procedure," the Minister noted, adding that in this regard, Slovenia proposed further simplifications towards transferring unused funds from the agricultural crisis reserve to the following year’s budget.

 

At today’s meeting, Slovenia also reported on the ministerial conference "The Consumer Has the Right to Know", organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food and held in Maribor on the fringes of the AGRA International Fair of Agriculture and Food in August this year. The conference was attended by ministers and other high representatives from 13 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), a representative of the European Commission and a member of the European Parliament. In his presentation, Minister Židan stressed that the conference was aimed at the exchange of views on the issue of the importance of information on place/country of origin for consumers and the quality scheme and the questions of whether this constitutes a competitive edge and an opportunity for agriculture in Europe and what measures must be adopted so as to put this vision into action: "The discussion at the conference focused on three main areas," he noted, "the mandatory or voluntary labelling of the origin of foodstuffs and other agricultural products, followed by the quality policy and, finally, consumers’ understanding of various labels and their right to choose." The minister pointed out that it was a common position of the participants that such a model presents an opportunity and an added value for the competitiveness of European agriculture and its food industry. Concluding, Minister Židan also mentioned the joint statement signed by participants from 11 states. This document includes guidelines and concrete proposals for the development of a model for addressing the changing expectations of consumers regarding information on the place/country of origin of certain food products, information on food quality and certain food production practices. 

 

Within a discussion on the situation in agricultural markets, Minister Židan stressed that upon the current recovery of agricultural markets, we should not forget that a part of the problem stems from the weak position of farmers in the food chain: "It is necessary to upgrade activities for improved equality within the food chain. In this context, Slovenia has proposed common legislative solutions at the EU level," he emphasised. The EU ministers also addressed the request from Poland to implement a comprehensive support programme in the pigmeat sector in connection with impacts on the market resulting from the veterinary restrictions due to African swine fever and took note of a request submitted to the European Commission to present forecasts of the situation and the available instruments for EU market stabilisation following the abolition of the production quota system in the sugar market.

 

At the end of the meeting, the ministers will focus on the proposal for a regulation fixing for 2017 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks applicable in the Baltic Sea. In addition to the above, also regarding fisheries, the ministers will exchange opinions regarding annual consultations between the EU and Norway for 2017. Fixing of fishing opportunities applicable in the Baltic Sea and negotiations between the EU and Norway do not directly affect Slovenia, however, since Slovenian fishermen carry out fishing activities in the Northern Adriatic only. The ministers will also exchange opinions regarding the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) to be held in Portugal in November this year. The conclusions adopted by the ICCAT do indirectly affect Slovenia, since it is obliged to carry out measures adopted on the traceability of tuna and tuna-like species in internal trade, import, export and re-export.

 

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