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EU Ministers on the simplification of the CAP and measures concerning meat fraud in Brazil

Luxembourg, 3 April 2017 – Today the EU ministers responsible for agriculture and fisheries held a regular meeting of the EU Council under the Malta Presidency. Ministers discussed a compromise proposal of the Omnibus Regulation on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework in part concerning a simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Commission presented to the ministers a report on the fulfilment of obligations in areas with an ecological focus. Ministers paid special attention to information related to Brazilian meat fraud. Slovenia’s representative on the meeting was Minister Dejan Židan.

 

The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council discussed agriculture issues at today’s meeting.  In the introductory part of this meeting the ministers discussed a compromise proposal for the Omnibus Regulation on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework in the part concerning a simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy. Slovenia supported initiatives leading to simplification in direct payments, uniform definitions for young farmers, changes in connection with the implementation of the financial instruments, and the adaptation of measures for mutual funds and management of income risks.  The Commission presented to the ministers a report on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation. At the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, a group of Member States drew attention to further possibilities of simplification of the CAP schemes and measures.  Today the ministers paid special attention to information on the meat fraud in Brazil.  The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis reported to the Council of Ministers on his recent visit to Brazil and on measures taken in connection with the meat scandal.

  

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MORE DETAILS ON THE EU AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES COUNCIL MEETING

 

Compromise proposal of the Omnibus Regulation on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 

 

At a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Presidency presented a compromise proposal for the Omnibus Regulation based on discussions and proposed amendments received from the Member States. The proposed compromise proposal is acceptable to Slovenia. Minister Židan highlighted in the debate that Slovenia pays particular attention to crop-specific payments, where the introduction of an improved flexibility in the implementation of the scheme is envisaged. According to the Minister, it is acceptable in connection with the measures for young farmers for Slovenia to maintain the existing threshold of 90 ha.  With regard to the concept of "active farmer" Slovenia supports the changes that give Member States more possibilities to adapt the scheme to their own situations, or to allow them even to decide not to require the fulfilment of conditions for an active farmer. Regarding the measures for managing the income risks, Minister Židan said that Slovenia supports the lowering of the threshold for the granting of aid to 20% and also allocating public funds for the establishment of mutual funds.

The compromise proposal also includes a proposal to supplement the rules regarding granting planting rights for vineyards and changes in the definition of wine.  It is proposed that a decision granting planting rights for vines should include a minimum required size and that priority may be given to young farmers.  Slovenia supported the proposal of France regarding the amendment of the definition of wine, where it would also be permitted to use the concentration method for wines with more than 15% alcohol.  This method is currently allowed for wines containing up to 15% ABV with the purpose of increasing their sugar content (sweet wines).

 

The Commission presented to the ministers a report on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation.

 

Today, the Commission presented a report on the fulfilment of obligations in ecological focus areas. The "Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs)" farming practice was introduced under the last reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the 2014–2020 period and is a part of the mandatory greening component of the direct payments scheme implemented by the Member States since 2015 within the framework of the CAP direct payment reform of the 1st pillar. EFAs means that the agricultural holdings with more than 15 ha of arable land must dedicate 5% of arable land for EFAs.  Member States have a considerable degree of flexibility in implementing EFAs, since out of the selection of possible EFAs they by themselves chose EFAs that the farmers may choose to fulfil this obligation. As a result the circumstances and situations of individual Member States have been increasingly taken into account while the EFA’s environmental effect depends on the selection.

 

In 2016 in the Republic of Slovenia 1,774 farmers were obliged to preserve EFAs, which constitutes 8% and thus exceeds the mandatory 5%.  Out of 9,986 ha of EFAs, the majority of them were under nitrogen fixing plants (6,223 ha), followed by successive secondary crops (3,448 hectares) and fallow land (328 ha).  Surfaces under nitrogen fixing crops constituted approximately half of the surfaces dedicated to protein crops support.  Slovenia estimates that a 5% share of arable land surfaces under ecological focus areas, which is mandatory for holdings with more than 15 ha of arable land, is suitable and Slovenia supports the Commission that this percentage should not be increased to 7.

 

Simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy

 

At the Meeting of the EU Ministers, a group of Member States drew attention to further possibilities for the simplification of the CAP schemes and measures.  As general issues of concern they highlighted the need for more balanced shared management and simplification of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) preparation processes.  They also underlined that controls should be based, to a greater extent, on risks and that the number of “layers” of the CAP rules should be reduced. 

 

In the discussion Minister Dejan Židan emphasised that Slovenia supports the call for simplification. "Slovenia estimates that this is also one of the key priorities in the context of discussion on the CAP reform." According to the Minister, the request can be fully supported and, in this context, subsidiarity and proportionality must be guiding principles.  Slovenia also agrees with the proposal to simplify the procedures for the preparation and implementation of the Rural Development Programme (RDP).  Slovenia also agrees with the proposal that, to a greater extent, controls should be based on risks. In his speech, Minister Židan highlighted the request that the entire CAP structure be reviewed in terms of simplification, divergent rules harmonized, such as those governing payments per ha, and thereby the complexity of implementation reduced to such an extent that the CAP will be understandable and feasible again, and therefore much easier to supervise.

 

Meat fraud in Brazil    

 

In today’s EU Council meeting, the Commission reported on the recent visit of the EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis to Brazil and the measures taken in connection with the meat scandal in Brazil (police investigation of the meat-processing firms that exported contaminated meat), namely “operation perishable meat”.  In the middle of March the EU was informed about the fraud in poultry and bovine meat production and trade in Brazil.  The Brazilian authorities disclosed serious irregularities and fraud in poultry and bovine meat production and trade in 21 facilities. Four out of the abovementioned facilities were registered exporters to the EU. The affair is based on corruption. So far, 33 officials are suspected to be involved.

 

In their discussion, the Ministers emphasised the need for strengthened inspection measures, which should be carried out via a coordinated approach across the entire European Union.  Minister Dejan Židan welcomed the Commission’s information on the measures taken.  He pointed out during the debate that ensuring the highest standards of food safety was what European consumers expected. "We require our farmers to achieve such standards, too, and it is therefore of key importance to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure that these standards are respected also for all the products imported into the EU”. He also said that Slovenia was pursuing two objectives: safeguarding consumers, if necessary, with excessive measures. "As for the second, Slovenia will not allow any state to expect Slovenia to overlook its criminal acts and not respond in order to protect consumers." According to Minister Židan the EU’s coordinated action and regular exchange of information between the EU Member States are very important. "We also welcome the announcement that, taking into account the information available on the food fraud, it was agreed that the consignments of beef and poultry meat exported from Brazil are to be particularly closely controlled." These activities are, in the opinion of the Minister, of major importance in terms of restoring consumer confidence.