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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Speech by Fernand Boden, Minister for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, to the European Parliament Agriculture and Rural Development Council

Date of Speech : 19-01-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : Fernand Boden

Policy area : Agriculture and Fisheries Agriculture and Fisheries

Mr President,


It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to come here to outline the Luxembourg Presidency’s major priorities as regards agriculture and rural development. It is of course a tradition to do this at the beginning of a Presidency, yet I do so with particular relish because I am fully aware of the importance of close co-operation between our two institutions if we wish to make progress. Furthermore, the intense and constructive dialogue between Parliament and the Council which has always underpinned the CAP’s construction and development will soon intensify and expand in the new conditions created by the Constitutional Treaty.

My basic objective will be to continue the endeavour to consolidate the European agricultural model, defined in 1997 under the previous Luxembourg Presidency, based on a competitive, sustainable and multi-functional agriculture spread throughout the territory of the European Union, including the less-favoured regions.

Before addressing questions specific to agriculture, however, I would like to tell you how moved my fellow ministers and myself are by the catastrophic events that recently shook vast areas of South-East Asia, and which have generated such extraordinary emotion throughout the world. I have the firm intention, in liaison with the Commission, of raising these events at our next Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 24 January, with a view to embarking on an in-depth process of reflection with all the ministers about what our Council can do to help within the limits of its specific powers. The Presidency will in any event ensure that the European Parliament is duly informed of all the initiatives taken.

Coming back to the Luxembourg Presidency's programme for this half-year, besides certain reforms or adjustments to the common market organisation (COM), particularly in sugar, I will focus on two subjects in particular. These are the new regulatory frameworks for rural development and the financing of the CAP.

Following the fundamental reform of the first pillar of the CAP in 2003, which has just begun to be implemented, EU rural development policy should make it possible to meet the challenges facing agriculture in a broader rural context by means of new rural development plans to be put into effect by Member States from January 2007. To be able to meet this deadline the new regulatory framework must be defined during our Presidency – hence my ambition to reach agreement on the Commission’s proposal on rural development as soon as possible in the first half of the year.

In order to achieve this I appeal to you to co-operate closely and would ask you in particular not to establish too close a link between the rural development proposals and the broad policy area of "Community financial perspectives for the period 2007-2013".

In my opinion it would help no-one to establish such a link. Irrespective of the budget that may eventually be devoted to rural development (and we all hope that it will be sizeable), it will always be important to use this budget as prudently and efficiently as possible. We must therefore have effective regulations and, above all, a sound planning and programming strategy in due course. This is the work that I propose to carry out, and I am convinced that we will succeed if everyone contributes. I would also like to remind you that Regulation (EC) 1257/1999, which currently regulates rural development policy, does not contain any budget provisions either.

I would be grateful if you would make the fastest possible progress in your work on the proposals relating to rural development, so that the Presidency can take note of your comments and so that the Council can conclude its work in the shortest possible time, taking due account of the EP’s opinion. This request also concerns the proposed financing of the CAP, to which I will return shortly.

In the context of the talks on reforming rural development policy, the Council must also examine a document that the Commission will present at the end of the first quarter and which also requires Parliament’s opinion. This is the strategic plan that will make it possible to establish the EU’s priorities in the main areas relating to the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry, the agri-environment, quality of life and economic diversification in the rural milieu.

Thanks to excellent co-operation between the Commission and Council during the Dutch Presidency, talks on the draft regulation are well under way in the Council. This initial examination indicates widespread support for the major guidelines of the proposal, which will improve the effectiveness and coherence of the mechanisms as a whole applied in favour of rural development. A considerable number of concerns nevertheless persist in relation to certain parts that must be analysed in greater detail.

This mainly involves the minimum rates per line of action (subsidiarity), criteria for distributing the sums allocated, the nature and scope of programmes, and the complexity of procedures that must be streamlined and simplified.

The Commission proposal to revise the list and the boundaries of the intermediate less-favoured regions poses a delicate political problem, and maintaining the present less-favoured regions is a concern for many of my fellow ministers.

To underscore our intention to make progress during our Presidency, the continuation of technical work has resumed this month, based on the list of principal questions that arose during the first examination.

This ambition to reach agreement during the Luxembourg Presidency also applies to the Commission proposal on the financing of the CAP, with respect to which the proposed reorganised funds should be in operation by the end of 2006. We will deal with this issue and the rural development issue simultaneously, and will do our utmost to ensure that the Council can adopt the proposal at the same time as the rural development proposal during the first half of 2005.

The new CAP financial rules should answer the Member States’ persistent demand for the financing mechanisms to be simplified. The essential objective of the new draft regulation is therefore to improve the effectiveness of how the CAP financing system works, based on establishing two new agricultural funds (Feader and Feaga) which replace the preceding ones from a new angle.

There are also several aspects that will have to be discussed in greater depth in order to find a satisfactory response for most delegations. These include in particular: simplifying payment certification systems; the flexibility, where necessary, of prudential regulations; and clarification of how different systems of financial rules that were conceived for different objectives operate.

Going on to the markets, the Council must continue to reform the various COMs along the lines set out by the reform of the first pillar in 2003 and continued last year for a range of products, particularly certain so-called ‘Mediterranean’ products. In this field our Presidency is aware of the time constraint it has been put under because virtually all the proposals concerned are currently being formulated at the Commission and will be presented in the coming months.

In this context I would first like to stress the legislative proposal awaited for the new COM in sugar - what a thorny and complex subject! The Council has already taken steps to define its general guidelines in this field, based on the communications and impact assessments presented successively to it by the Commission in 2003 and 2004. This lively and co-ordinated exchange of views will doubtless allow the Commission to present an equitable proposal that is equal to the challenges the sector is experiencing, both internally and internationally, during the first half-year.

The Luxembourg Presidency will in any event endeavour to take this reform forward by considering both the interests of the European sector and the interests of the developing countries.

In this respect, on 16 September 2004, together with my colleague Jean-Louis Schiltz, Luxembourg’s Minister for co-operation and humanitarian action, I played host to a ministerial delegation from the ACP and least developed countries. We told them that in a spirit of policy coherence the Luxembourg Presidency intended to ensure that their interests would be duly taken into account by the Council of Ministers of the European Union and would form an integral part of the discussions on the reform of the COM for sugar, as well as negotiations at the WTO.

To this end I can tell you that European Ministers for Agriculture will hold an informal meeting with Ministers from the sugar-producing ACP and LDC countries next Monday, on the fringe of the Council session.

For the other sectors, the Presidency intends to take the rice, wine and tobacco policy areas forward – and if possible, with your active co-operation, to get the Council to take a decision on the proposals that will be referred to it.

These three cases involve changes which are albeit limited, certainly, but which we must make in the wake of international negotiations that have already concluded or which are currently under way, or indeed in the wake of the lessons provided by experience acquired in the functioning of certain internal rules.

This will entail implementing a new Community import system for rice, taking account of the new circumstances in terms of consolidated rights applicable to this product, as arises out of agreements recently entered into under Article XXVIII of the GATT with India and Pakistan, as wells as those which – we hope – will be entered into with the United States and Thailand in the same context.

For wine the application of COM mechanisms introduced or amended by the 1999 reform highlighted shortcomings and showed that some of these mechanisms are not entirely adjusted to producers’ needs and expectations, or to the interests of sound management of the market. If the Commission presents proposals in this important sector we will endeavour to make as much progress as possible.

In the raw tobacco sector the Commission will propose to finalise the fundamental reform of this COM that took place in 2004 by means of a range of technical adjustments, particularly by means of such an important measure as eliminating the system of repurchasing quotas.

Your contribution on these three policy areas will be crucial, and I have no doubt that it will be eagerly awaited so that we can come to a successful conclusion within the deadlines envisaged.

With your co-operation we also intend to quickly finalise an issue that has been on the agenda at the Council since December concerning potato starch. This proposal is based on the report presented simultaneously by the Commission on the subject of allocating the Community quota for the production of potato starch.

Taking account of enlargement and the 2003 reform of the CAP, the Commission proposes to renew the quotas existing in 2004/2005 over two seasons. The Commission will then reassess the situation and present a report on the subject by 30 September 2006 at the latest.

As far as products of animal origin are concerned, one issue will be monitored particularly closely under the Luxembourg Presidency: egg-marketing standards.

In this field the Commission will involve us in deliberations on the difficulties highlighted by several new Member States as regards compulsory marking of the production method on eggs. The Presidency will strive to bring this issue to a rapid conclusion by means of a system which, while avoiding disproportionate administrative charges for small producers, ensures the essential guarantees of traceability and transparency. I am convinced that this is also the approach advocated by your Council.

At international level the Presidency expects a satisfactory outcome to important negotiations at the WTO, or at least to achieve substantial progress.

I am referring in particular to the negotiations under way on wine and the importation of rice and bananas. The Presidency will endeavour to ensure that the Council's agricultural bodies are associated closely with if not directly involved in discussions and decisions relating to them.

I will naturally also ensure that the Agriculture and Fisheries Council will regularly monitor the progress of the Doha Round, and that it is associated to this whole process.

In this context I would like to stress, as the former Agriculture Commissioner Mr Franz Fischler did before you in September 2004, that the objectives of the Doha programme are ambitious and that "our principal objective continues to be to ensure that the agreement does not destroy the framework of CAP reform. We wish in addition to make sure that other industrial countries also reform their agricultural policy, that issues not linked to trade are also settled appropriately, and that the developing countries, particularly the poorest, benefit from real opportunities."

The August agreement achieved these objectives, and we must ensure that we preserve these EU provisions.

Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament,

I would now like to turn to other agricultural policy areas which the Presidency will address. I will refer firstly to organic farming. The European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, which was approved a few months ago, was a first step in an ongoing process. On the one hand an information campaign based on the European logo has just been launched, while on the other the Commission is preparing a far-reaching revision of current Community legislation in the field, including aspects relating to imports of organic products into the Union. I hope the Commission's proposals will be adopted as soon as possible so that they can be examined by the Council during our Presidency.

The Commission also announced that it intended to present a draft regulation amending the regulations in force on CAP information and promotion actions. The purpose of this proposal is to introduce changes that will improve the management and effectiveness of such action by seeking to exploit synergies with the Member States. The Presidency expects an agreement towards the end of this half-year, after receiving your institution’s opinion.

To conclude this section I would like to draw your attention to another particularly important policy area concerning instruments for managing risks in agriculture. During the Council session of 29 September 2003 the Commission pledged to examine specific measures for managing risks, crises and natural catastrophes in agriculture and to present a report – and possibly appropriate legislative proposals – to the Council.

The Presidency is eagerly awaiting the documents setting out the Commission's thinking on this matter with a view to its examination by the Council. Since it is a new instrument, the key issue will doubtless be to find the necessary funding.

[Several Court of Auditors’ reports presented to the Budgetary Authority during the second half of 2004 have already been examined at technical level, mostly by Council bodies.

These reports concern the recovery of irregular CAP payments, the introduction of the cattle identification system, management and supervision by the Commission of measures to combat foot and mouth disease, and the operation of the COM in raw tobacco. The findings of the Council's examination of these reports will form part of the discharge procedure for the 2003 annual budget, which your Institution must approve, as may the findings of the report on the forestry sector that should reach the Council this month.]

Mr President,


The reforms carried out in 2003 and 2004, particularly decoupling and the imposition of conditions on aid, give a new dimension to the CAP. I believe that the challenges awaiting those concerned, i.e. the farmers, and the offensive measures required to combat such challenges, must be discussed from the farmers’ point of view.

This will be done during the informal meeting of Ministers for Agriculture to be held at Echternach from 8 to 10 May 2005. Given that it is the farmers who are destined to take the reins, and who will form the network of driving forces in the sector, the CEJA [European Council of Young Farmers] will be closely associated to the meeting, which will address the challenges that face them and the motives that drive them.

In a debate in Council I also intend to address the subject of "The Lisbon strategy and agriculture".

Mr President,


At this point I would like to tell you what the Presidency intends to do with regard to the forestry sector. I would first of all like to remind you that the fifth and final session of the United Nations Forum on Forestry (UNFF-5) will take place in New York in May, and will include a session at ministerial level. This session will examine the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests and the elements of a mandate for introducing a legally binding instrument applicable to all types of forest. The Dutch Presidency proposed a working document to try to define the EU’s common position, to be presented during the session referred to. The Luxembourg Presidency will pursue this approach so that it can speak on behalf of all Member States in New York.

Another forestry-related policy area is the issue of timber imports into the EU (FLEGT). The Luxembourg Presidency will try to reach an agreement on the Commission's legislative proposal for the introduction of a voluntary authorisation scheme (FLEGT) relating to such imports. The Presidency also intends to ensure progress in the debate on the Council's mandate that seeks to authorise the Commission to initiate negotiations on partnership agreements with certain third countries.

This chapter also provides for the Commission to present a report to the Council on the first five years of implementation of the Community forestry strategy, laid down by the Council in December 1998, before the end of the first half of 2005. The Presidency will ensure that a debate in Council is organised as soon as possible.

Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament,

Other major issues require our full attention: food safety, public health, animal health and welfare, and plant protection.

Public opinion is becoming increasingly sensitive and demanding with respect to these issues. The Community, which had to face serious crises in the past in times of real disarray and uncertainty, was able to react effectively. We cannot consider the work to be entirely accomplished, however, when we are not protected against new threats or exempt from the risk of seeing the necessarily severe provisions that we have adopted being applied poorly on the ground.

The impressive legislative work undertaken during the recent Presidencies in particular now enables the Commission and the Luxembourg Presidency to address a limited number of policy areas. During the current half-year I expect our institutions to make progress to reinforce the arsenal of measures existing in three essential areas of animal health and welfare:

  • preventing and combating avian influenza. With the Commission, I believe it is time to recast, consolidate and modernise Community legislation in this field, particularly following the epidemic in Asia, which has disturbing connotations for human health;
  • animal diseases in the aquatic environment. We already have an array of legislative instruments available in the area of animal health and the combating and monitoring of the diseases in question, but a single up-to-date legal framework must be established in line with current scientific knowledge;
  • welfare in the breeding of broiler chickens. This involves including additional provisions in implementing effective animal protection legislation, after those already introduced in terms both of breeding – calves, pigs, laying hens – and animal transport. Enhanced animal protection and welfare has become a priority both for the Council and for the Commission, and we welcome this.

Let me also incidentally salute the success achieved by the Dutch Presidency just a month ago, when the Council adopted the new regulation on protecting animals during transport. Some voices – incidentally including mine – were certainly raised within the Council itself to call for more ambitious regulations, but it cannot be denied that the work accomplished is commendable. The task now is to apply the new rules correctly while awaiting the report – and possible proposals – that the Commission will submit to us in the next few years.

I would like to emphasise the importance the Luxembourg Presidency attaches to the above three policy areas, and therefore our interest in having your Parliament’s opinion in due course so that the Council can take a decision in the first half of 2005.

Another subject that attracts my attention and which has considerable media impact is the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Thanks to a complete understanding between our two institutions, the European Community has the most stringent legislation in the world in terms of authorising, placing on the market, labelling and ensuring the traceability of GMO.

A very important question, however, is yet to be resolved, and concerns how to ensure coexistence between genetically modified crops and traditional and organic crops. So far the Commission has been content to stick with the principle of subsidiarity and to allow Member States to legislate in this area, recommending guidelines to guarantee such coexistence.

The recent discussions that have taken place within the Council on this matter, however, have indicated that many Member States believe that uniform, binding provisions applicable in the area must be rapidly introduced at Community level.

We await a Commission initiative on this issue, as we believe that free choice, both for consumers and producers, is essential here.

In the areas of plant protection products and plant protection, a Commission proposal on combating the golden nematode, a potato parasite, is expected next April. The Luxembourg Presidency wishes to finalise this policy area before the end of the first half-year, if possible.

In relation to the international aspects of this issue, I would briefly like to say that the Luxembourg Presidency will endeavour on the one hand to bring the Community's admission to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants to a successful conclusion, in close consultation with your institution, and will on the other monitor negotiations with third countries, particularly the Russian Federation, on plant protection matters.

In this context the Presidency must pay the greatest attention to preparing the Codex Alimentarius Commission session in June 2005 and the session of the decision-making body of the International Convention for the Protection of Plants in April 2005. The Codex Alimentarius, whose rules principally aim to protect consumer health, is assuming increasingly greater importance in the context of the international food trade. Due to my country’s limited resources, however, the Netherlands will help us to organise a considerable number of coordination meetings which the preparation of these two sessions requires.

Mr President,


After this outline of the Presidency's programme, which I have endeavoured to present succinctly yet at the same time as fully as possible, I am at your disposal to answer any questions and to provide you with any further information you may require.

Thank you for your attention.

This page was last modified on : 24-01-2005

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