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EU Mediterranean countries on common challenges in agriculture

EU Med Ministers and State Secretaries met today in Brussels on the initiative of the Greek Minister of Agriculture. The group consists of Mediterranean countries that are EU member states: Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Slovenia was represented by State Secretary Eva Knez.
Meeting of Mediterranean countries in Brussels on cooperation in the field of agriculture.

State Secretary Eva Knez with participants of the meeting of Mediterranean countries. | Author Svet EU

The Greek Minister of Agriculture outlined four main proposals for future cooperation in agriculture and rural development. Given that Mediterranean countries face similar situations, the aim of these proposals is to identify common solutions that will be emphasised by the EU Ministers in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and subsequently implemented.

The discussion centred on the adaptation of agriculture to climate change and challenges posed by the more frequent occurrence of storms, natural disasters, and other crises. Severe storms hitting Greece and Slovenia last year are not exceptions as similar events occur across the Mediterranean to varying degrees. Spain has been fighting drought for the third consecutive year. With less than 400 mm of rainfall per year in certain areas, agricultural production is under significant threat. Floods and hail are also becoming increasingly common occurrences.

All those present agreed on the need to increase funds from the agricultural reserve. A 2-percent increase could be a positive step forward, as would the possibility for member states to manage the agricultural reserve. This would accelerate the procedure of allocating aid when it is most necessary, as proposed by Croatia and Slovenia in one of the previous meetings of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

They also discussed the occurrence of invasive species, such as the blue crab, and diseases that cause significant damage in agriculture and fisheries due to adverse climate conditions.

Diseases, such as downy mildew in wine-growing, pose significant problems in some parts of the Mediterranean, resulting in reduced quantities and quality of products, and causing the loss of farmers' income. The priority in such cases should be to compensate for the loss of income. The Croatian Minister of Agriculture pointed to the African swine fever as an additional threat to these areas.

The Portuguese Minister of Agriculture proposes to continue the general approach in adopting rules on new genomic techniques as proposed by the Spanish Presidency, while the Italian Minister of Agriculture suggests a compromise agreement with the opt-out principle laid down in the Regulation. While the majority of countries do not agree with patenting, Slovenia, Croatia, and Malta raised concerns and expressed their opposition to the general approach, advocating a precautionary principle.

Countries unanimously agreed that the common agricultural policy requires effective measures and changes aimed at reducing red tape. We need solidarity between partners in the long term, including from other sectors. Without the support of the society, agricultural activities could decline in certain areas. This could have severe repercussions, potentially surpassing the impacts of climate change. In certain areas, production cost have risen by over 20% in the past three years, resulting in lower incomes for farmers.

State Secretary Knez welcomed the discussion on the need to adapt to climate change. Slovenia recognises the need to reduce bureaucracy in the common agricultural policy and ensure the availability of funds in the face of the growing frequency of crises and natural disasters affecting the agricultural sector. Regional cooperation is vital to efficiently fight diseases, pests, and invasive species.

Ministers proposed convening the group on the margins of future meetings of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council.