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Agrifish council on measures to mitigate crises in agriculture

Participants of today’s EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Agri-Fish Council) meeting discussed measures to combat crises in the agricultural sector. Slovenia was represented in the meeting by the Secretary of State, Ms. Eva Knez, who pointed out on arrival that Slovenia welcomed the European Commission’s proposals of simplifying the existing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules. “The measures proposed are aimed at taking greater account of specificities of individual Member States. Today, we repeatedly proposed introducing the ad hoc financial mechanism for countries to be in a position to respond rapidly to crises in agriculture.”
Four ladies are standing and taking a photo.

From left to right Simona Vrevc, general director Maša Žagar, Leni Ozis and state secretary Eva Knez. | Author Ministry of agriculture, forestry and food

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Central topic of this session of the EU Agriculture Ministers was to look for common solutions for a prompt and structural response of the EU to crises in the agricultural sector. By a large majority, the Council confirmed the proposal of short-term measures in response to crises, presented by the European Commission (EC). Many Member States believed that the possibility of adopting measures requiring prior revision of basic legislation should be examined. They agreed that, in this respect, they should restrict themselves to key areas, i.e. adaptation of requirements on good agricultural and environmental conditions, speeding up and simplifying the strategic plan amendment procedures, and reducing the burdens on farmers, ensuing from inspections and sanctions. Details of implementation of relevant measures will be prepared by the Council Working Groups, jointly with the EC, and relevant reports will be presented at the coming Agri-Fish Council this March.

In discussion, the Secretary of State presented Slovenia’s proposals on dealing with problems that farmers are confronted with. “We are here today to jointly find solutions for the immediate tackling of certain problems, and to assess the possibilities of more fundamental changes. Focus should be on simplifications, and on reduction of administrative burdens on farmers”, pointed out the Secretary of State. In this context, she added that Slovenia found it important, at requirements on good agricultural and environmental conditions, to enable greater flexibility and consideration of national specificities, so as to avoid over-restricting the agricultural production. “Most important is the proposal by the Commission of envisaging derogations for smaller farms regarding the control of conditionality, whilst many lesser problems could be eliminated by modifying the strategic plans.”

The Secretary of State, Ms. Knez, further pointed out that as to subjects to be dealt with in the medium and long term, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures need to be strengthened for crisis management and response to crises within the common market organisation and agricultural reserves, and at national level. “Slovenia wishes to highlight the common Slovenian-Croatian proposal that a certain part of national CAP envelopes could be used in response to crises experienced at Member State level.” In addition, Slovenia proposes to upgrade the Directive on unfair trading practices, as the improvement of position of farmers in the food chain needs to remain a priority task. According to the Secretary of State, it further needs to be ensured within the trading policy that countries, wherefrom products are imported, shall be required to implement the identical standards as there apply to farmers within the EU. The Secretary of State assessed the withdrawal by the EC of proposal on sustainable use of pesticides as an appropriate decision. “Dealing with this legislative proposal namely showed how important it is that, while drafting the EU legislative acts, thorough assessment of their effects is prepared, including the quantitative assessment of consequences for the agricultural sector and food production.”    

Slovenia agreed that maintaining the competitiveness of agricultural sector is imperative, and in the forefront, the strengthening of alimentary autonomy, and promotion of sustainable and environment-friendly agricultural practices. Principles of equilibrium and proportionality of requirements on the environment, nature conservation and climate shall be taken into account, whilst preventing negative impacts on production potential of agricultural and forest land, and empowering the agricultural sector in carrying out its primary task, namely, the production of food. Slovenia believes that a solution for improving the resilience of agricultural sector against changes in the environment, and its stability, lies in promotion of the research, innovation and digitalisation, where knowledge exchange and effective knowledge transfer to farmers are of key importance.

In the margins of today’s session, a meeting of the EUMED-9 group of nine Mediterranean and Southern-EU Member States (Cyprus, France, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) took place. Members of the group exchanged opinions and views on topics that were in the forefront of today’s Agri-Fish Council meeting.