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EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council discusses progress on CAP reform, fish quotas and the importance of forests

The last meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council under Finnish Presidency, which was attended by State Secretary Dr Jože Podgoršek, focused on fishing, agricultural and forestry issues. The ministers adopted the Regulation fixing for 2020 the fishing opportunities in the Black and Mediterranean Seas, reviewed the progress made in negotiations on the reform of the common agricultural policy and exchanged views on the importance of forests and forestry for a sustainable future. As part of preparations for the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the State Secretary met with the German and Portuguese ministers of agriculture.

Commissioner for enviroment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius and state secretary Podgoršek

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Commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius and state secretary Podgoršek | Author MKGP

At the end of its Presidency, Finland compiled a progress report on the consideration of three regulations making up the legislative reform package on the common agricultural policy (CAP) beyond 2020. In the discussion, State Secretary Podgoršek said that the key issue was funding as, without a proper budget, it would be impossible to achieve the higher goals expected from the new CAP under the European Green Deal on transitioning to a low-carbon society. "We welcome the Finish proposal on the multiannual financial framework that envisages an increase in rural development funds. Slovenia will strive to keep this in the final agreement."

During Finland's Presidency, progress was made mostly in relation to the CAP's contribution to EU objectives as regards adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and environmental protection, the range of interventions contributing to the CAP's share in environmental and climate targets, the flexibility on conditionality and sector interventions for other sectors (other than fruit and vegetables). "We would particularly like to thank the Presidency for the enormous progress regarding sector interventions in terms of substance. The introduction of a four-year transitional period for cooperatives and other forms of association is a good and sustainable solution that should be developed further."

Slovenia agrees with the assessment of the Finnish Presidency that the new CAP delivery model requires further examination as the new system should be efficient as well as easy to implement.

As regards fisheries, the ministers adopted the Regulation fixing for 2020 the fishing opportunities in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Slovenia managed to secure special treatment allowing the preservation and sustainable development of traditional Slovenian fishing patterns. For Slovenian fishing, the agreement provides for an allowable catch of sardines and anchovies of up to 300 tonnes per year and an allowable bottom fishing effort of up to 3,000 days per year. This is an exception to or deviation from the general principle of the common fisheries policy.

During Monday's working lunch, the ministers and the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Qu Dongyu discussed the world's forests and sustainable future. According to State Secretary Podgoršek, Slovenia is well aware of the potentials of forests and forestry for the sustainable future of our planet, but solutions are only possible with an integrated approach on a global scale. "We therefore support efforts for an efficient fight against climate change, particularly the objectives from the European Green Deal. We especially welcome the contribution of the future EU strategy on forests and the measures for the protection and rehabilitation of forests."

On the initiative of the French delegation, the ministers exchanged views on the ever-increasing imbalance between consumers' expectations regarding the quality and origin of foods and EU legislation. The origin of foods is a very important piece of information for the Slovenian consumer, said the State Secretary during the discussion. "EU regulations differ by sector, and some Member States also have their own legislation on particular products. The criteria for labelling the origin of raw products should therefore be subject to unified regulation at the EU level. We thus welcome the Commission's intention to make clear food-origin labelling an important element of the anticipated Farm to Fork strategy", he stressed.

Furthermore, the Presidency provided the ministers of agriculture with information regarding future financial resources for the operation of the Minor Uses Coordination Facility. "Thanks to this facility, Slovenia was also able to allow the use of plant protection products on cultures with small-scale production", said the State Secretary. As regards financing, he called attention to the need for establishing an EU legal framework under which EU funds could be provided for the facility's operation.

On Tuesday morning, as part of preparations for the Presidency of the Council of the EU, State Secretary Podgoršek met with German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner and Portuguese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development Maria de Céu Albuquerque. Germany, Portugal and Slovenia make up the trio Presidency; Germany will be the first of the trio to assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU in July 2020 and Slovenia will take over in the second half of 2021.

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