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Minister Podgoršek assesses the EU Council Presidency in the field of agriculture, forestry and food as very successful

At an online press conference, the Slovenian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Jože Podgoršek, presented the main activities in agriculture, forestry and fisheries during Slovenia's EU Council Presidency. As the key achievements he highlighted the adoption of legislative acts of the common agricultural policy, the adoption of the Council conclusions on the new forest strategy and negotiations on fishing quotas for the year 2022.
Minister Podgoršek at a press conference

Minister Podgoršek assesses the EU Council Presidency in the field of agriculture, forestry and food as very successful. | Author Primož Predalič/Urad vlade za komuniciranje

It has been a challenging year for the employees at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food and colleagues in Brussels, in particular the past six months during which Slovenia held the Presidency of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. Just before the beginning of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, i.e. in June, the Portuguese Presidency finalised a political agreement with the European Commission and the Parliament on the new common agricultural policy (CAP) and it is this very topic that has most marked the Slovenian Presidency. During that time a major step forward has been taken towards the adoption of the new CAP, as both, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have adopted its legislative framework. In this context, the minister highlighted: "After more than three years of hard work we have brought the reform to a conclusion. The new CAP is a milestone in EU agricultural policy as it will provide European farmers with a fairer and more sustainable future. We are aware that agriculture also needs to be made more competitive and more integrated and that it requires the transfer of knowledge and development. Above all, I estimate that the new CAP is more ambitious in terms of protecting the environment and adopting to climate change." According to the minister, an important part of the new CAP are the strategic plans which the Member States were obliged to submit by the end of 2021. 

An important step forward has also been taken in forestry, as the Slovenian Presidency has successfully adopted the Council conclusions on the new forest strategy. The strategy was presented by the Commission in July, while the conclusions were adopted during the November Council meeting. "Slovenia as one of the most forested countries in the world has always been aware of the importance of sustainable and multifunctional forest management. I am very pleased that conclusions on such important issues have been adopted during the Slovenian Presidency. Most of the conclusions reflect the need for cooperation of all stakeholders in establishing a balanced approach to forests. This is the only way to successfully take on the challenges posed by our forests and, at the same time, protect the communities living off forest resources."

As the third most important achievement, Minister Jože Podgoršek mentioned the negotiations on fishing quotas for 2022. A political agreement has been reached on three proposals for regulations on fixing fishing opportunities for 2022 which refer to the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic, Skagerrak and Kattegat and the Mediterranean and Black Sea. "The agreement is very important, because the European fishermen will be able to start fishing in time in the 2022 fishing season. The agreement will also provide for the preservation and sustainable management of fisheries stocks in the EU." It should also be pointed out that the negotiations on fishing quotas were extremely long and arduous, and at the December Council they lasted for 23 hours uninterruptedly.

The minister went on to outline other achievements reached during his presidency of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. At its first meeting in July, the Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopted Council conclusions on the Action plan for the development of organic farming. The objective of the plan is to boost the production and consumption of organic products to reach 25% of agricultural land in the EU under organic farming by 2030. The implementation of the action plan could also lead to an increase in organic aquaculture. An important step towards organic farming has also been taken with the declaration of the EU Organic Day which was celebrated for the first time during the Slovenian Council Presidency. The minister stressed that "increasing the share of organic farming will contribute to strengthening shorter supply chains and provide additional opportunities to small farmers". In the area of agriculture, the focus has also been on stable food supply as the COVID-19 epidemic has shown how fragile the food system is. At its December meeting the Agriculture and Fisheries Council therefore adopted conclusions on a new contingency plan aimed at ensuring food supply and food security.

In the area of food safety, negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission on the amendment to the Official Controls Regulation were concluded during the Slovenian Council Presidency. The requirement on the use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry for all meat and meat products imported from third countries, which are as strict as they are in the EU, increase the protection of European consumers.

The Slovenian Presidency also placed a great emphasis on improving the role of women in rural areas. This topic was the subject of an international conference held on the margins of the International Fair of Agriculture and Food AGRA. In September, Slovenia also hosted an informal meeting of ministers of agriculture. It was devoted to strengthening the dialogue between urban and rural areas. Representatives from EU Member States were also presented with good practices in connecting urban and rural areas. In addition to the informal meeting of agriculture ministers the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food organised informal meetings of Directors-General for Forestry, Directors-General for Hunting, Directors-General for Fisheries and Directors-General for Veterinary Services, which were also attended by Directors-General via video link. In total, over 250 events and meetings were held during the Slovenian Presidency.

The minister concluded the press conference by thanking everyone involved in the six months of hard work. "I think that our entire team, both in Ljubljana and Brussels, has done a great job and I would sincerely like to thank them for that. It was with great pride that I followed the work we have done and the results we have achieved. I am pleased to see that most of the objectives set out and presented at the beginning have been implemented."