12th REPORT: THE UNITED KINGDOM PRESIDENCY:
Department for Environment Food and Rural
1. The Government welcomes this Report. It
is timely to have the support, thoughts and recommendations of
the Committee on Defra's priority areas for the UK Presidency
of the EU.
2. Since the report's publication, Defra
Ministers and officials have begun chairing Councils and Working
Groups in the capacity of the Presidency. Some of these concentrating
on the work areas discussed in the Select Committee hearing.
3. Also, in September, Defra hosted a successful
joint Environment and Agriculture Informal Council event in London
attended by EU environment and agriculture Ministers (the first
time such a joint event has been held) The theme of the meeting
was the relationship between climate change and agriculture, focussing
on the significant challenges and opportunities that climate change
presents to European agriculture.
4. It is hoped that the knowledge sharing
and goodwill garnered from this event will help with the smooth
running of Defra business in the EU during the UK Presidency.
5. The Government responds as follows to
the Committee's recommendations.
Financial Perspective negotiations
We agree that the emphasis should be on the
rural development schemes, and we consider such spending should
be focussed towards the new Member States. As stated in our earlier
report, we strongly recommend that rural development funding under
Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy should not suffer as
a result of restrictions on the EU budget as a whole. Regarding
Pillar 1, to re-open the Brussels ceiling now would create further
instability in an already complex negotiation and we therefore
do not believe that the agreement should be re-opened.
6. The Government acknowledges the importance
of adequate funding for rural development, and, amongst other
things, has argued for further transfers of resources from Pillar
1 to Pillar 2. A budget which allows for the continuation of the
current levels of pillar 2 expenditure would be affordable, provided
sufficient reductions were made elsewhere; and we have argued
that any increases in rural development spending could be funded
by reductions in agricultural subsidies. The Government notes
that the Commission's proposed rural development budget of 88
billion already represents a substantial increase over current
levels of expenditure in the EU 25.
7. The Government believes that consideration
of the Brussels ceilings needs to be handled with care, in the
context of decisions about the whole EU .budget. The Government
does not believe that the EU should spend 40% of its budget on
the CAP, and believes Europe cannot wait 10 years or more for
change. The October 2002 agreement was part of a package that
paved the way for enlargement and for the beneficial CAP reforms
which have happened since. It was explicitly agreed "without
prejudice to future decisions on the CAP and financing of the
European Union after 2006" and set ceilings, not targets
for expenditure. The Government does not believe a new Financial
Perspective should be agreed that does not at least set out a
process that leads to a more rational budget, and that this must
allow such a budget to shape the second half of the Financial
Perspective up to 2013, including expenditure on the CAP. The
debate needs to proceed in an inclusive way and the Government
is currently consulting other Member States on their views about
Sugar sector reform
We support the Government's determination
to bring the sugar reform into line with the general reform of
the Common Agricultural Policy. Reform of this sector is long
overdue, and will be inquiring into this subject in the autumn.
8. The Government has noted the Committee's
views on sugar sector reform. Liberalising the outdated and protectionist
EU sugar regime is an important element of our efforts to reform
the Common Agricultural Policy and is a top priority for the UK
Presidency. Reaching agreement at the November Council, as the
Commission wants, is a challenging timetable, but we will do all
we can to help meet it.
We were pleased to hear that the Government
recognise the critical importance of viewing fishing within the
context of the wider marine environment. We urge the Government,
during their Presidency, to ensure this approach is accepted by
all Member States and informs the debate in the Agriculture and
9. There are a number of issues that will
come before the Agriculture and Fisheries Council during the UK
Presidency that deal with the conservation of fish stocks and
the marine environment. These include a number of recovery and
management plans for certain fish stocks and proposals for management
measures for the sustainable exploitation of fishery resources
in the Mediterranean Sea. The Committee will wish to note that
on the 20 September the Council adopted a regulation to protect
deep water coral reefs in the seas around the Azores, Madeira
and the Canary Islands.
10. We also hope to be able to hold some
discussions on progressing the Marine Thematic Strategy during
our Presidency. However, this depends on the timing of the package
issuing from the European Commission, and to some extent on its
content, including whether there is an adequate impact assessment
as a basis for debate. These are matters for the European Commission
rather than the Presidency.
We were pleased that the Government have
pledged to ensure the handling of fisheries proposals is "better
managed" in order to improve the scrutiny process in advance
of the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council. We will work
with Defra to ensure this is achieved.
11. We acknowledge that the speed with which
proposals have hitherto had to be adopted as a consequence of
the December Council process, has meant that they have not been
given adequate consideration from a scrutiny perspective. Improvements
in the scrutiny process have therefore been a particular priority
for our Presidency. We have encouraged the Commission to develop
its "front-loading" agenda by bringing forward discussions
on a range of subjects which would otherwise have made the December
agenda all the more congested. Minister Bradshaw will also chair
a discussion at the October Council, which will consider changes
to the fisheries calendar in order to provide for more time between
the circulation of proposals and their ultimate agreement and
application. In addition, at a practical level, we will continue
to keep the Committee informed on progress on the various dossiers,
in particular, by forwarding to you the key Commission documents
as they are released.
We were encouraged by this and urge the Government
to do all they can during the Presidency to improve National Allocation
Plans for the next stage of the EU ETS.
12. The need for clearer and more detailed
guidance from the Commission on preparation of NAPs is a key priority
for Phase II. This would ensure that the Commission and Member
States are provided with the necessary information to undertake
robust, transparent and consistent assessment of the NAPs, specifically,
Member States progress towards Kyoto target. The Commission have
committed to producing revised guidance in the final quarter of
2005, and the UK will continue to work with the Commission to
ensure that views are taken into account, particularly on the
content of the document. From a UK perspective, it is crucial
that the timetable is met in order for revised guidance to be
fully taken into account in the development of Phase II NAPs.
13. The Government launched a public consultation
on 19 July on the development of the National Allocation Plan
(NAP) for Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
This consultation seeks views on whether the UK should extend
the Scheme to include additional sources of carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions from existing sectors, and to include CO2 emissions
from new sectors.
The Committee supports the Government's goal
of trying to deal with the environmental impact of aviation emissions
as soon as possible. We reiterate our earlier recommendations
that emissions from intra-EU flights be brought into the EU ETS
at the earliest possible opportunity.
14. Aviation is making a growing contribution
to climate change and we should ensure that industry takes its
share of responsibility for tackling the problem. Emissions trading
uses market forces to deliver real environmental benefits in the
most cost effective manner.
15. The Government's March 2003 report, Aviation
and the Environment: Using Economic Instruments set out our
approach to developing policy and the Government's principal of
sustainable development for aviation: that a proper balance should
be struck and maintained between economic, environmental and social
considerations; and within this framework that aviation should
pay its external costs. As a result of this, the Future of
Air Transport White Paper (December 2003) sets out the UK
Government's intention to continue to press for the development
and implementation of a well-designed, open international emissions
trading regime for aviation through ICAO.
16. But it also sets out the Government's
intention to press for the inclusion of intra-EU air services
in the forthcoming EU emissions trading scheme, and to make this
a priority of our Presidency of the EU in 2005. Our aim is for
aviation to join the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2008, or
as soon as possible thereafter. However, we recognise that this
may not be a total solution and will continue to explore and discuss
options for the use of other economic instruments. We plan to
use our Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers to debate the
options and agree a way forward.