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EU agriculture ministers on implementing the EU forest strategy and ensuring the availability of fertilisers

Minister Irena Šinko participated in the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting. European Commission informed the EU Ministers on implementing the new EU forest strategy for 2030, and on ensuring the availability and affordability of fertilisers. They dealt with the agricultural aspect of the proposal for a Regulation on nature restoration, on two points concerning fisheries, on energy transition of the EU fishing fleet and aquaculture, and on the algae sector development activities. In bilateral meetings, the Minister met with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius, and with Mr Peter Kullgren, the Minister for Rural Development of Sweden, which in 2023 begins the Presidency over the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council.
Minister Šinko and comissioner Sinkevicius standing in front of the flags.

Minister Irena Šinko with the comissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius | Author Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo, gozdarstvo in prehrano

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The Ministers were informed by the Commission on the implementation of the new EU forest strategy for 2030. The Strategy published in June 2021 upgrades the EU framework for the harmonization and provision of coherence of policies linked to forests. The objective of the Strategy is to adapt Europe’s forests to the new conditions, weather extremes and high uncertainty brought about by climate change. The Minister Irena Šinko highlighted in discussion that Slovenia belongs to the most forested EU countries as up to 60 % of its territory is covered in biodiverse forests. “The proposed Strategy actions are going in the right direction; however, the review of progress made in implementing the Strategy is rather challenging, as the actions and objectives set by the different sectors tend to overlap. We would plead for more dialogue between the Member States, in particular on Strategy objectives for the next decade. It is crucial that the future system of monitoring at EU level would take into account the systems already in place in the respective Member States.” In conclusion, the Minister pointed out that forests were a most precious natural heritage, that forest management was of paramount significance, and that changes in forest management had to be reasonable, prudent and gradual.

In the meeting, the Commission presented the Communication on ensuring the availability and affordability of fertilizers. Due to soaring prices and fertilizer deliverability problems in the EU, the European Parliament and the Member States called on European Commission in the September sitting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council to prepare a pan-European strategy of tackling the challenges faced by fertilizer industry in Europe, as fertilizer producers were decreasing production on account of soaring energy prices. In September 2022, nitrogen fertilizer prices increased in the interim period by 149 %, in addition to a strong increase in other incoming costs for farmers in this same period. For this reason, farmers in Slovenia are stalling fertilizer purchasing for the sowing of winter green crops. Slovenia believes that the issue should be approached in a coherent manner at EU level, that the autonomy of the EU in fertilizer production and delivery should be strengthened, and that it is crucial to take action to improve the transparency of the market in fertilizers, and in raw materials used in production thereof. At the same time, it is necessary to stimulate the sustainable and efficient use of fertilizers, and to search for alternative nutrients and energy sources. Minister Šinko further highlighted in discussion that, currently, the short-term measures of support to domestic fertilizer producers and to farmers were of crucial importance in order to retain agricultural production. “Prolonged temporary framework for State aid measures to tackle the effects of Russian aggression is a positive measure which, however, does not replace action at EU level. We are in favour of provisional suspension of customs duties on import of certain fertilizers. Market situation monitoring is of crucial importance and, for this reason, we do welcome the introduction of Market Observatory.” The Minister exposed also the need for medium-term and long-term measures. “Strategic plans will play a key role in increasing the effective use of fertilizers, in education, and in introduction of sustainable agricultural practices.”

In the morning part of the sitting, Ministers discussed two points dedicated to fisheries. The Commission reported on energy transition of the EU fishing fleet and aquaculture. There followed Commission Communication on development of a resilient and sustainable algae sector. Today, the Commission presented the proposal for a Regulation on nature restoration in agricultural perspective. Proposal for a Regulation to support the recovery of degraded ecosystems lays down obligations for individual Member States. Slovenia is attentively monitoring the discussion of the proposal as the Regulation will highly impact the agriculture and forestry. In discussion, the Minister Šinko further emphasized: “We welcome in particular the endeavours to conserve wild pollinators as these are of crucial significance in maintaining biodiversity, and in agriculture by their positive effects on food production.

In a bilateral meeting, the Minister met with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius. In talks covering fisheries they exposed the situation and specificities of Slovenian fisheries, the absorption of the EU funds in fisheries, and management of fisheries in the Mediterranean from the perspective of Slovenian fisheries. They discussed the situation and specificities of Slovenian forestry, the EU forestry strategy in conjunction with Slovenian forestry sector, and the Standing Forestry Committee (SFC). The Minister familiarised the Commissioner with activities accomplished by Slovenia in reducing food waste.

Minister Šinko met with the Swedish Minister for Rural Development, Mr Peter Kullgren. Central topics of discussion included the priority tasks of Sweden during their Presidency to the EU Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Council. They exposed the dossiers of particular importance for Slovenia, inter alia, the identification of food and especially honey, proposal for a Regulation on sustainable use of pesticides, and environmental contents that concern agriculture and forestry as well (nature restoration, emissions from industry, soil protection, and deforestation). In discussion they addressed also the fisheries and forestry. The Minister assured the Swedish Colleague of Slovenia’s constructive cooperation towards making progress at targets set in their Presidency work programme.