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Press Release
The European Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries consult on aid to communities affected by the tidal wave in South-East Asia

Date of release : 24-01-2005

Policy area : Agriculture and Fisheries Agriculture and Fisheries

Event : Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Fernand Boden, the Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, presented the work programme on agriculture at the first meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

"One of my guiding objectives in this work will be to continue to work towards the consolidation and defence of the European agricultural model defined in 1997 during the last Luxembourg Presidency. This is a competitive model based on sustainable, multifunctional agriculture across the entire European Union, including the less-favoured regions," he declared.

President Fernand Boden, together with Secretary of State Octavie Modert, stated his desire to reach an agreement on the Commission proposal on rural development “as soon as possible" under the Luxembourg Presidency. He announced that the Council will analyse the strategic plan to be presented by the Commission at the end of the first quarter, which "will allow EU priorities to be established in the principal areas related to the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry, agri-environment, the quality of life and economic diversification in the rural sector."

The President also announced that "this ambition of reaching an agreement under the Luxembourg Presidency is also applicable to the Commission’s proposal on financing the Common Agricultural Policy (PAC), where the reorganised funds proposed should be operational at the end of 2006."

"We will deal with this dossier and the rural development dossier simultaneously, and we will implement everything the Council needs to adopt the proposal at the same time it adopts the rural development proposal during the first half of 2005," he said. Other important topics of the Luxembourg Presidency: implementing the European fisheries fund, a new financing instrument for the sector for the 2007-2013 period, and food safety.

The Ministers listened to the reflections of the Commission on the situation of the fishing sector and fish farming in South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean following the tidal wave of 26 December 2004. The Council expressed its support for the proposals of Commissioner Joe Borg, who insisted on the competence of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations as regards the coordination of the aid effort, and the importance of ensuring the usefulness of all measures undertaken.

Joe Borg proposed the transfer of European fishing boats scheduled for destruction to the communities affected by the tidal wave. Compensation for these boats would be paid by the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). "The public would not understand if we were to destroy the boats and not send them over there," Fernand Boden stated at the press briefing on the Council issue.

Another measure calls for sending short- and medium-term technical assistance. This could result in the continuous presence of fishing experts in those countries for a period of two and a half to three years to support the recovery of sustainable fishing and aquaculture that respects the environment, explained the Commissioner. The Presidency and the Commission highlighted the importance of adopting the proposed measures in accordance with the on-site needs of the FAO and of integrating the efforts of the Union within the overall measures being undertaken by the international community.

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