Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Rt Hon David Miliband MP, Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  In light of the Parliamentary recess, I am writing to you in place of the usual written statement to summarise what happened at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on 18 September 2006.

  I represented the United Kingdom for the morning session and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union represented the United Kingdom for the rest of the day.

  The Council held a discussion, based on a Presidency questionnaire, on the Commission's Communication on the reform of the wine sector in the EU. All Member States agreed the need for reform but there were differences about its scope and depth. I stressed the need for a progressive, liberalising reform to improve competitiveness and sustainability and enable the industry to respond to market needs.

  The Environment Commissioner and the Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner presented two proposals on pesticides, designed to enhance the regulatory system governing pesticide authorisation and use.

  In the absence of a qualified majority in favour or against, the Council was unable to reach decisions on the Commission's proposal to authorise the use of a specific type of GM oilseed rape in animal feed. In the absence of Council decisions, therefore, the Commission is now free to implement its proposals under its own competence.

  A large number of issues, as follows, were raised under any other business.

  The Council took note without discussion of a written update from the Commission on the Avian influenza outbreak.

  Belgium asked for consideration to be given to easing the restrictions which apply in the case of a Bluetongue outbreak.

  Belgium also informed the Commission of the action it had taken following agricultural damage caused by adverse weather conditions in July and August.

  Denmark, supported by 11 other Member States including the UK, argued that the current school milk scheme needed reforming to encourage consumption of low fat milk and dairy products to bring it into line with modern nutritional advice. The Commission said the scheme was under review.

  Greece supported by Spain, requested help for olive growing areas affected by July's forest fires. The Commission recommended that both Member States apply to the EU solidarity fund or use provisions in the Rural Development Regulation.

  Lithuania, supported by eight other Member States, asked to re-open the debate on the Commission's communication of 2005 on risk and crisis management in agriculture.

  France expressed concerns about WTO agricultural negotiations. The Agriculture Commissioner reported that there had been no significant developments since the suspension of the negotiations.

  Hungary supported by six other Member States expressed concern about the Commission's proposed plans to tighten the quality standards for maize bought into Community intervention.

  Germany raised concerns about the draft text of the Rural Development Implementing Regulation, specifically the requirements relating to the payment of Member State top ups.

  The Finnish Presidency announced that their Informal meeting of Agriculture Ministers would take place from 24-26 September; it will focus on the European Model of Agriculture and the future of the CAP.

30 September 2006

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