'Diversity, quality and sustainability' in agriculture and fisheries key for Greek presidency

A sustainable agriculture and fisheries system can drive EU prosperity, employment and growth, argues Athanasios Tsaftaris.

By Athanasios Tsaftaris

19 Dec 2013

In assuming the presidency of the agriculture and fisheries council, Greece will promote the implementation of the adopted reforms for policies in these areas. [pullquote]Agriculture and fisheries constitute basic pillars for growth, jobs and social cohesion at EU and national level, including blue growth[/pullquote].

Diversity, quality and sustainability as drivers for EU prosperity, growth and jobs are the mottos of the ministry of agriculture and rural development during the Greek presidency. To that end, in addition to files under examination within the relevant council and the European parliament committees, some initiatives at home have been scheduled with this context in mind.

For agriculture we will pay particular attention on progressing the work of the commission's new legislative proposals and report on delegated acts for the implementation of the new common agricultural policy and the promotion of agricultural products in the internal market and in third countries, aiming at measures leading to higher added value and market demands – the presidency aims to reach a general approach on this file. We will also look at aspects linked to quality policy and, in particular, biological production and the establishment of optional quality terms for, among others, island farming and local and direct sales products. The presidency also hopes to progress on a fruit and vegetables regime aimed at improving the common market organisation function and in particular the producers' organisations scheme. This will contribute to strengthening the competitive position of farmers in the supply chain within a globalised market. Another priority is the delivery of agricultural products to school children, aimed at supporting education and the consumption of healthy products. Finally, we will look at the contribution to future decisions on the dairy sector beyond 2015, possibly via council conclusions.

In veterinary and phytosanitary sectors, we will pay particular attention to the examination of the legislative package for "healthier animals and plants for a safer food chain". Priority should be given to the adoption of expenditure regulation and to the advance of the work on regulations for plant and animal health, the propagating material and official controls. For this purpose, close cooperation with parliament is of great importance.

Furthermore, we'll continue to promote the alignment of regulations to the Lisbon treaty, in particular on spirits, raise imports from Bangladesh and examine the review of the regime for the outermost regions.

The promotion of innovation is an important issue of our priorities. In that context the action plan (European innovation partnership) aimed at promoting sustainability and agricultural productivity based on research and innovation will be presented during the first ministerial EU council on agriculture. Transforming European agricultural diversity into strength as a cornerstone issue will be under discussion at the informal ministerial council meeting in Athens on 4-5 May.

A high level conference will be held in Athens (mid spring), on the contribution of science to the agricultural competitiveness, sustainability and quality in cooperation with the joint research centre. An international high level conference on sustainable fishing capacity management will be hosted by the European commission, with the food and agriculture organisation participation, in Thessaloniki, on 13-14 March. This is an important contribution to the sustainability of the global industry and the survival of fish stocks.

Regarding fisheries, we will try to accelerate procedures on the European and fisheries fund proposal in order to have its final adoption in the last plenary of parliament in April. The fund encloses public subsidies aimed at enhancing growth and creating jobs. Implementation of the common fisheries policy reform will be promoted, with progress on the landing obligation proposal for delivering more reliable data for resources and better management support. The presidency will continue to lead the EU on the fight against the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing with the promotion of the proposal on fishing authorisation regulation.

On the alignment proposals we will advance some files after a situation assessment.

Issues related to international cooperation with third countries and international organisations will be promoted, as well as free trade agreements and other bilateral and multilateral agreements.

We will work in close collaboration with parliament, the commission and other involved bodies to advance all reforms. Despite the time limit due to the European elections we are determined to succeed in all important and sensitive issues we are called to face during our presidency.