Speech by Vigilijus Jukna, Minister of Agriculture, at the European Parliament, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee

09 July 2013, Last updated at, 10:52 EEST
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Vigilijus Jukna, Minister of Agriculture | author: 15min/Scanpix

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me, as Lithuania has the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time in its history, to be here today to present our work programme to your Committee.

It is an historic challenge for my country to be leading the EU, especially now that Croatia has joined and we have 28 Member States. It is also an opportunity to show that a small country is able solve problems adequately and effectively. It is a responsibility that we relish and are geared up to face. We will seek to steer the decision making process as an honest broker, ensure the continuity of the EU and the inclusion of all relevant partners.

Part of the challenge as President of the Council is to work with you as co-legislator to achieve success and the best result for our citizens. I look forward to working very closely with you as we take forward the busy and important legislative agenda in front of us.

First of all, I would like to present you the common priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency.

The programme of the Lithuanian Presidency focuses on creating a reliable, growing and open Europe. It is a comprehensive programme that covers EU financial stability, economic growth and employment, youth employment in particular, the EU single market as well as regional security goals.

As President of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council I have the task to promote sustainable, innovative and environmentally friendly development of agri-food and fisheries sectors in the European Union.

Now I would like to briefly introduce you to the key priorities of our Presidency in the agriculture sector.

First of all I would like to share my joy with you over the interinstitutional agreement on CAP reform package that was finally reached after intense debates, more than 40 trialogues, and number of technical meetings which took place in the past few months. It was a prime example showing that all the three European institutions can agree on issues of great political importance under the Lisbon Treaty as well.

Today I would like to take the opportunity and to thank in particular Mr Chairman Paolo De Castro, Rapporteurs Mr Luis Capoulas Santos, Mr Michel Dantin and Mr Giovanni La Via, as well as other Honourable Members of the Committee for their efforts and significant contribution in reaching the agreement and our common goal – the sustainable and effective CAP.

At this point I am very grateful to my predecessor, Mr Simon Coveney, and Commissioner Mr Dacian Cioloş for their outstanding work and ambition in reaching agreement with your Committee. This was a wonderful achievement which shows what can be done when there is political will.

Thus after reaching the inter-institutional political agreement on the CAP reform package the Lithuanian Presidency aims to finish the work related to the approval and the timely entry of the CAP package into force. A very painstaking and responsible joint work is ahead of us in doing that. Dear Colleagues, I can assure you that everything that was agreed over the last two weeks in Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg will be properly reflected in the final drafts.

Our Presidency will also concentrate on discussing and adopting a proposal on the necessary transitional CAP rules on certain aspects of the CAP reform, mainly related to the system of direct payments and rural development. We will seek smooth transition from the CAP regulations of the current financial period to the new CAP reform legislation.

Transitional rules will be applied in 2014, so an agreement on the provisions will have to be reached during the Lithuanian Presidency not only within the Council but also on the inter-institutional level. This is a task demanding urgency procedure and attitude. This is our common challenge and responsibility to ensure clear rules and financial guarantees to farmers in the transitional period. I am looking at Mr Albert Dess, rapporteur of this important document. Colleague, we must act jointly in a smooth, swift and coordinated manner. I rely on your experience, Mr Dess. Mr Chairman Paolo, I have no doubt that we will have as fruitful and constructive cooperation with your committee in this area as before.

Now I would like to move to other priorities of our programme.

Animal welfare and plant health legislation review

I would like to assure you that the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council will seek a simpler, more streamlined and modern EU legal framework in the areas of animal health and welfare, plant health, and animal feed and food.

On 6th of May 2013, the European Commission published a package of five proposals to ensure better enforcement of health and safety standards for the whole agri-food chain.

The Lithuanian Presidency will seek substantial progress with the proposals concerning:

  1. Animal health;
  2. Plant health;
  3. Production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material;
  4. Official controls in the food and feed chain.

The proposal for a regulation on expenditure management framework for 2014-2020 in the areas of food chain, animal health and welfare and plant health will allow smooth allocation of finance to programmes carried out by Member States and in case of outbreaks. It is also one of the regulations that should be adopted, enter into force and be applied as of 2014. For this reason, we will devote particular attention to examining this proposal and reaching political agreement by the end of the Lithuanian Presidency. Mr Chairman Paolo, Rapporteur Ms Agnes Le Brun, I hope for effective and constructive cooperation with your Committee in this area as well.

I want to assure you that given the proposals made by the European Commission, Lithuania is also ready to enter into negotiations and make substantial progress in the review of veterinary medicines and medicated feed directives, hygiene package zootechnical legislation review and the cloning of animals for food production.

Other initiatives

  • Promotion measures for agricultural and food product export

Being familiar with the planned legislative activity of the European Commission, we are ready to start the discussion of the proposal for a regulation on information provision and promotion measures for agricultural products and achieve considerable progress on this issue.

  • Fruit and vegetables sector

The fruit and vegetables sector occupies a very important place in the overall agricultural sector. As we continue strengthening the role of producer organizations and bargaining power in the food chain we plan to focus on the fruit and vegetables sector in autumn and seek substantial progress on the future Commission package of legal proposals in this area. The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on amending provisions of the EU regime for the fruit and vegetable sector will cover the implementation of CMO measures in the fruit and vegetables sector related to producer organizations, their operational funds and programmes.

  • Forestry

The Lithuanian Presidency will pay due attention to the coordinated implementation of the principles of sustainable forestry in the Member States and will propose to the Council to adopt conclusions on the new EU Forest Strategy. This EU-level forest policy instrument will be based on the principle of subsidiarity and respect for national competences, with a special focus on climate change and renewable energy issues.

  • Alignment of legislation with the Lisbon Treaty

We are also determined together with you to continue work on alignment of other food and agricultural legislation with the Lisbon Treaty. I am glad to mention the fact that the end of June saw the green light given to the completion of the dossier related to the Omnibus Trade negotiations (olive oil imports from Turkey, certain Community tariff quotas, imports of Bangladeshi rice). As soon as this September we will launch a trilateral dialogue with your colleagues from the Committee on International Trade.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

This is a short overview of the key priorities of Lithuanian Presidency of the agriculture and fisheries sector. As you can see, it is expected to address a number of important and sensitive issues in the next six months. A lot of work is ahead of us, so we expect a close, active and, most importantly, effective cooperation with the European Parliament in order to achieve these goals. I am very pleased that my predecessors and I have already laid solid foundation for cooperation with the European Parliament, both in bilateral meetings with Mr. Chairman Paolo, as well as with other Honourable Members of the Committee. I am looking forward to our successful cooperation in the future.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Chairman, I am happy to take any questions you and Committee Members might have.

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