Mr Janez JANSA (right), Slovenian Prime Minister, Chairman-in-office of the European Council,
Mr Nicolas SARKOZY, French President.
© 2008 European Council
Meeting on 19-20 June, European Union heads of state and government took stock of the situation regarding ratification of the Lisbon treaty, on the basis of an initial assessment by the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, in view of the outcome of the referendum in Ireland. They concurred that more time was needed to analyse the state of affairs, and agreed to Ireland's suggestion to come back to this issue at the European Council meeting of 15 October 2008 in order to consider the way forward.
The leaders noted that, at present, the parliaments of 19 member states have ratified the treaty and that the ratification process is continuing in other countries. They also stressed that it was important for the EU to continue delivering concrete results in the various policy areas which are of concern to its citizens.
Tackling high food and energy prices
EU leaders at the European Council meeting held an exchange of views on the issues posed by rising food and energy prices. The worldwide surge in commodity prices is posing problems in Europe, with low-income households among the worst affected, and it also has serious repercussions for developing countries.
The European Council stated that the Union has already started to tackle soaring food prices by means of measures such as selling intervention stocks, reducing export refunds, increasing milk quotas and suspending import duties for cereals. In future, it will be necessary to further improve the market orientation of agricultural production in order to make it more responsive to market signals and to ensure an adequate food supply, especially in the context of the ongoing "Health Check" of the Common Agricultural Policy. Moreover, the promotion of innovation, research and development in agricultural production can help improve its energy efficiency, productivity and ability to adapt to climate change.
Regarding biofuels, greater emphasis should be placed on sustainable policies, by setting sustainability criteria for the production of first generation biofuels and developing second generation biofuels made from by-products. The possible impact of biofuels on agricultural food products as well as their environmental and social consequences also need to be assessed carefully.
EU leaders expressed concern at the continuing surge in oil and gas prices and their social and economic consequences. The recent sharp rise in global energy prices underlines the need for energy efficiency, energy savings and diversifying the EU energy supply, including by the use of renewables, in particular with the support of new technologies. A rapid adoption of the climate change and energy package currently under preparation should help addressing many of these concerns. Other issues to be examined rapidly include the competitiveness of energy markets, the modernisation of transport systems and the transparency of oil markets. EU leaders pointed out that the impact of more expensive commodities on the less well-off can be alleviated by short-term and targeted measures, as long as these do not have distorting effects on the economy, especially on prices and wages. Furthermore, EU leaders invited the incoming French Presidency together with the Commission to examine the feasibility and impact of measures to soften the impact of oil and gas price increases.
On the international level, the EU is already providing food aid and humanitarian assistance for developing countries and will promote a more coordinated response to the food crisis from the UN, from international financial institutions and in the framework of the G8. The best long-term results may be achieved by helping the countries most affected to develop better agricultural policies, with special attention paid to food security, small-scale farmers and energy efficiency.
Council Conclusions (pdf)
Council webcast of Press conference
Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 23-24 June