External fishing fleets
The Council reached agreement on a general approach on the sustainable management of the external fishing fleets. The proposal aims to modernise and simplify the current framework for the management of authorisations granted to EU vessels fishing outside EU waters, and of authorisations granted to third country fishing vessels operating in EU waters. It also addresses key issues such as abusive reflagging and private fishing arrangements of EU fleets outside EU waters. The Council general approach focuses on technical improvements, simplified administrative procedures and better alignment with the control regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
"The Council text increases the transparency of external fishing activities and will make it more difficult to circumvent the CFP rules, while limiting administrative burdens."Martijn van Dam, Dutch minister for agriculture and President of the Council
Fishing opportunities for 2017
Ministers were briefed on a Commission communication on fishing opportunities for 2017.
Member states generally welcomed the communication, acknowledged the overall improvement in the state of fish resources and stressed the need to improve the communication on the efforts undertaken in the EU to reduce the level of fishing.
Some delegations expressed their support in reaching maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2017 for as many stocks as possible, while being ready to consider socio-economic aspects when needed. Some others highlighted that the implementation of the landing obligation could be problematic in the near future, in particular with regard to choke species.
The fishing opportunities for 2017, on which the Council will have to reach agreement by the end of the year, will be fixed under the objectives of the 2014 CFP and based on independent scientific advice. Under the CFP, the fishing pressure on stocks should be aligned to the MSY objective as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest. This will help to ensure the achievement of good environmental status in European seas and reduce the impact of fishing on the marine ecosystem.
Food waste and food losses
The Council adopted conclusions setting out a series of initiatives to reduce food waste and food losses. The measures include calls on member states and the Commission to improve monitoring and data collection in order to better understand the problem, to focus on prevention of food waste and losses and enhanced use of biomass in the future EU legislation, and to facilitate the donation of unsold food products to charities.
Other topics on the agenda
Ministers discussed a number of other issues during the two-day meeting, including the ongoing work of the agricultural markets task force, chaired by Mr Cees Veerman, and endocrine disruptors.
Furthermore the Council adopted conclusions on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), and endorsed an implementation plan and recommendations on the acceleration of sustainable plant protection.
The Commission updated the Council on the latest market developments in the main agricultural sectors. It also reported on the support measures agreed at the September 2015 and March 2016 Council meetings. In the debate that followed the measures currently in place were thoroughly evaluated.
Many ministers expressed continued concern about the current market situation, and stressed the need to alleviate the difficult situation facing European farmers and help the sustainability of the most affected sectors.
At the end of the meeting the presidency drew conclusions in which it calls upon the Commission to put forward in July, a set of measures which are both able to ease the current market pressure and are compatible with existing budgetary constraints.
"Despite the September and March packages of measures, the crisis in the dairy, pigmeat and fruit and vegetables sectors continues, due to a persistent imbalance between supply and demand. Farmers' incomes are negatively affected. The difficult situation is calling for additional measures as soon as possible, and we urged the Commission to present an additional financial package in July 2016."Martijn van Dam, Dutch minister for agriculture and President of the Council
The presidency informed ministers about the state of play of the negotiations with the European Parliament on organic farming. In its debrief the presidency highlighted the significant progress made on most issues, including sensitive points such as: imports, controls and non-authorised products and substances.