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EU Ministers on International Trade in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Today, the EU Ministers competent for agriculture, and fisheries met on the first EU Council meeting this year under the Portuguese Presidency, which took place in the audio-visual form. On behalf of Slovenia, the meeting was attended by the Minister Dr Jože Podgoršek. In the introduction, Portugal presented the work programme in agriculture and fisheries in the following half year.

The central part of the meeting was dedicated to reporting by the Commission on the current state in the negotiations in the trade in agricultural products with third countries and on the updating of the study on the cumulative impact of trade agreements on the agri-food sector. Within the points on fisheries, concerning the (Br)exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, the guidelines for negotiations on fishing possibilities in divided fish stocks for 2021 were presented. At the meeting, Slovenia called on the Commission to institute appropriate measures to aid pigmeat market, considering the worrisome current situation in the sector. Within the AOB points, the Presidency reported on the state of negotiations concerning the Common Agricultural Policy Reform legislative package.

Initially, Portugal, having taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January, presented the work programme in agriculture and fisheries. Focus will be on strengthening the resilience of the agricultural sector and its capacity to respond to crises, the safety and sustainability of the supply chains, and strengthening the protective measures in plant health. Priority will be given to strengthening innovations, transferring knowledge and digitalisation in the light of sustainable management of resources, including the soil and water, in order to maintain and develop agricultural activities and demographic stability. During the Portuguese Presidency, the topics ensuing from the European Green Deal will also be in the forefront, namely the Action Plan for organic farming and the long-term vision for rural areas. In fisheries, the Presidency will, inter alia, strive to reach a political deal on the revision of rules applicable to controls in fisheries.

Today, the Commission reported, inter alia, on the state of play in negotiations in international trade in agricultural products, and in making international agreements in agriculture between the EU and third countries. The Commission presented the updated study of 2016 on cumulative impacts of future trade agreements on the agri-food sector. Slovenia, as export-oriented economy, supports negotiations to conclude agreements on free trade between the EU and third countries, whilst simultaneously retaining special positions regarding sensitive areas, in particular as to agriculture and food safety standards. In addition to economic benefits, the EU trade policy plays an important role in disseminating and safeguarding the EU values and standards around the Globe. Accordingly, the EU maintains the deepened commercial and political relations with many other regions of the World, endeavouring to address with the trade partners the different environmental, social and political issues. Slovenia expects from the Commission to maintain clarity and transparency in trade negotiations, and that, in relations to EU institutions as well as in relations to shareholders and citizens.

Considering the worrying situation in the pigmeat market, Slovenia called on the Commission within the EU Council to introduce appropriate measures to aid this sector. Slovenia namely believes that support is urgently required to uphold the competitive edge of this sector. The Minister pointed out in his presentation that “we had faced such low prices back in 2016 when, on account of crisis in animal breeding sectors, extraordinary support measures to animal breeding sectors were implemented”. He further pointed out that producers have, in addition to extremely low prices, been struggling with the additional costs on account of the ASF and the Covid-19 pandemic, on account of standstills in slaughter establishments and weight outgrowing of fattening pigs. “For this reason, and in particular in the light of urgent support to maintain the competitiveness of the sector, Slovenia calls on the Commission to institute, as soon as possible, and based on detailed analysis, the appropriate measures to aid the sector.”

Within the scope of the points on fisheries, the Commission presented guidelines on negotiations with the United Kingdom concerning the fishing possibilities in divided fish stocks in 2021. After the United Kingdom has left the EU, the annual consultations on the model of Norway are put in place with the United Kingdom as to the divided fish stocks. The EU is represented by the Commission, negotiating within the guidelines based on the principle of integral harmonisation with the Council of the EU in all the phases of the consultations (preparing, managing and concluding the consultations, and reporting). Slovenia welcomes the transparent approach by the Commission and, in particular, the integral harmonisation with the Council of the EU in all the phases of the consultations.

Within the AOB points, the EU Ministers repeatedly familiarised themselves with the report of the Presidency on the state of play in the trialogue negotiations in the Common Agricultural Policy Reform legislative package. Given the large extent of the package, negotiations over several months are to be expected, and that most burning issues, including elements of green architecture, framework for monitoring, and structure of market interventions, are finally to be addressed towards the conclusion of negotiations. Minister Dr Podgoršek pointed out in this context that “we are well aware how important it is to reach an agreement this Spring and to be able to fully focus on preparing and implementing the strategic plans.”