Agriculture and Fisheries Council took place in Luxembourg on 18 June. I represented the UK.
The main focus of the Council was fisheries items. The most substantive of these was a presentation by the European Commission on the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Commissioner Vella outlined the main aims for 2019: reaching maximum sustainable yield targets, fully meeting the Landing Obligation, and implementing the Baltic and North Sea Multi-annual Plans (MAPs). There was an exchange of views among member states. The UK reiterated its commitment to the Landing Obligation and spoke of the need for pragmatic solutions to prevent choke problems in 2019.
The Netherlands gave a presentation to highlight a recent report from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) about pulse beam trawling. Member states agreed that more research was needed. The UK drew attention to original research being carried out by Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), whose report is due in 2019.
There was a presentation by the Commission on a new proposal revising the Control Regulation. The presentation raised the possibility of increased electronic reporting and satellite control as well as greater oversight of the recreational fishing sector. Member states voiced concerns about the practicalities and costs of these changes, especially the introduction of CCTV.
The Commission also gave a presentation on a regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), covering the period 2021-2027, outlining its intention to give member states more flexibility in managing the fund. Member states welcomed the offer of greater flexibility but requested further discussion about the Fund’s budget and administration.
The most substantive item for agriculture was a presentation by the Commission on reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020. Member states expressed a range of views, with some of them concerned about planned budgetary cuts. Member states agreed on the importance of achieving real simplification. The Commission signalled further discussion on this topic and welcomed further constructive recommendations from member states.
The Commission also gave an update on the agricultural market situation, giving a generally positive assessment of the health of EU markets.
Six further items were discussed under ‘any other business’:
- the Slovenian delegation gave a presentation on their UN initiative ‘World Bee Day’
- the Polish delegation presented on the situation in the pig meat market
- the French delegation presented on the disposal of skimmed milk powder stocks
- the Cyprus delegation gave information about the decreasing availability of water for agriculture in Cyprus
- the Spanish delegation provided information about anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties against Spanish table olives by the US authorities
- the Hungarian delegation delivered a joint Declaration of the Visegrad, Baltic, and Balkan member states about a shared initiative in agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture research, ‘BIOEAST’.
Until the UK leaves the European Union, the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of our negotiations with the EU on the future partnership will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future.