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EU agriculture and fisheries ministers agree on fishing opportunities for next year. The task is also to put the new Common Agricultural Policy into practice

Dec 15, 2022

The Council of Ministers agreed on fishing quotas for the member states concerned in Union waters and in certain waters outside the Union for 2023. Ministers also reviewed the current situation on agricultural markets in the context of the war in Ukraine and highlighted the challenging preparations on the part of farmers and paying agencies in putting the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plans into practice. The last Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers under the Czech Presidency took place on Sunday and was chaired by Agriculture Minister Zdeněk Nekula (KDU-ČSL).

"The debate on fishing opportunities falls every year into December, and this year it was also very difficult. I am therefore glad that we managed to find a consensus that is in line with the multiannual plans and, above all, with scientific recommendations. Fish resources are not unlimited, and our task is to protect valuable species and ecosystems, while preserving the socio-economic stability of fishermen," said Czech Agriculture Minister Zdeněk Nekula.

Experts from the working group have been working intensively on the agreement over the past months, and a political consensus was reached at the Council today. The agreed quotas apply to fishing in EU and some non-EU waters, namely the Atlantic and North Sea, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Sea for 2023 and, in the case of deep-sea stocks, for 2023 and 2024. The Czech Republic, as a landlocked country, has acted as an impartial moderator throughout to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and socio-economic aspects.

Ministers also regularly monitor the situation on agricultural markets, now particularly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since February this year, the socio-economic situation in Europe has been significantly affected by the war. Exports of agricultural commodities from Ukraine have been greatly helped by the so-called solidarity lanes, which the Czech Presidency has focused on intensively. In addition to the increase in energy prices, the situation is particularly challenging in the feed and fertiliser sector, especially in terms of their availability and affordability. At the last meeting, the European Commission proposed possible solutions to the high prices and availability of fertilisers. Member States agreed that an EU solution was preferable to delegating the responsibility to individual Member States. For example, the use of an agricultural emergency reserve is proposed.

The new Common Agricultural Policy was also on the Council's agenda, which will apply from 1 January 2023. There are only a few weeks left to approve national legislation, set up IT systems and familiarise farmers in detail with the new rules and conditions. Farmers and public administrations are now facing a challenging period. The European Commission (EC) has already approved the strategic plans of almost all Member States, which is important to complete all preparations and adopt national rules and control systems.

"I am glad that we have managed to set up the Strategic Plan of the Common Agricultural Policy for the Czech Republic.  The document describes in detail the areas where we will allocate 200 billion crowns over five years. I am convinced that we have found a balanced compromise that will help the countryside, improve the condition of water and soil and realistically strengthen local food production. Now we have to put the plan into practice, and we are ready to help farmers to do so," said Minister Nekula.

Sustainable use of plant protection products is also a priority of the Czech Presidency in agriculture. The Commission has put forward a proposal to reduce pesticides in the EU by 50% and it has been intensively discussed during the Czech Presidency. The Member States agreed that food security should remain the main objective of agriculture and that the reduction targets should not distort production and thus increase dependence on food imports. It is appropriate that reduction targets should be decided taking into account the individual starting position and progress of each country. It is also necessary to ensure that non-chemical alternatives are more widely available in order to meet the targets. The Czech Presidency has proposed a first compromise document on this subject and will forward it to Sweden, which will take over the Presidency. The debates will therefore continue.

Another topic of the last Agriculture Council this year was animal welfare, where the European Commission has committed itself, also on the basis of public interest, to assess and revise the existing legislation in this area by the end of 2023. The EC has therefore published a "Fitness Check" document assessing the current animal welfare legislation. The document states that the current legislation has improved animal welfare compared to before its adoption, but still allows some practices that are not suitable for animals and that are not in line with the latest scientific knowledge. "The Czech Republic also has stricter conditions than the European legislation on the care of farm animals. We have long supported the gradual improvement of animal welfare. We have already banned the breeding of animals for fur production in 2019, and the breeding of laying hens in enriched cages will not be possible in our country from 2027. We are ready to follow scientific knowledge and go even further in improving," said Zdeněk Nekula.

The ministers also discussed geographical indications (GIs) and food quality schemes, and the promotion of quality schemes is important. In March this year, the European Commission put forward a proposal to amend the rules to strengthen the GIs system and reduce the time needed to register them. These are measures that will simplify and modernise the system. The Czech Republic has registered several dozen European quality labels, such as the Czech Beer, Pardubice Gingerbread or Prague Ham.

In Brussels, Minister Zdeněk Nekula also held a working meeting with Italian Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida and his Swedish counterpart Peter Kullgren, to whom he handed over the presidency for the next six months.

 

 

Vojtěch Bílý

Spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture