Speech by Vigilijus Jukna, Minister of Agriculture, at the European Parliament, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee

10 July 2013, Last updated at, 13:59 EEST
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Vigilijus Jukna | author: 15min/Scanpix

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Committee, Representatives of the Commission, 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. We aim to be an efficient and result-oriented Presidency to achieve our goals of a credible, growing and open Europe.

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 would like to start my speech referring to the speaker before me, colleague of mine, Minister Mr. Valentinas Mazuronis, and to add to what was said that Lithuanian Presidency policy is oriented to a credible, growing and open Europe, focusing on the objectives of the EU financial stability, economic growth and employment, youth employment in particular, strengthening of the EU single market as well as regional security goals.

In every single policy area under the nine EU Council configurations we are committed to take over presidency duties and work responsibly to achieve well-balanced solutions and real progress.

  • Agriculture and fisheries priorities

Speaking particularly on the issues of my field, I would like to draw your attention to the period we are undergoing – the bridging to the new financial perspective. It necessarily comes with related important decisions and the goal to promote a sustainable, innovative and environmentally sustainable agricultural and food sector as well as fisheries development in the European Union.

  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

First of all, I would like to focus on the inter-institutional agreement reached two weeks ago on the Common Agricultural Policy reform. Lithuanian Presidency aims at completing the work related with the CAP package timely. Particular attention will be given to the adoption of the proposal which provides the necessary transitional provisions of the CAP on certain aspects of the CAP reform. Elements of the proposal will ensure a smooth transition from the current financial period applicable for the CAP regulations to the new CAP reform legislation.

  • Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

Now I would like to move to the Common Fisheries Policy reform. In this respect, we will pay special attention to the final tasks and preparation to implement the reformed policy. Political agreement on the Proposal on the Common Fisheries Policy and Proposal on the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products has been reached under the Irish Presidency. Our concern and efforts will be directed to political agreement on the proposal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund which is designed to finance the implementation of the new CFP, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sector development in 2014–2020.

  • Review of legislation: new package “Healthier animals and plants and safer agri-food chain”

Regarding food safety, animal health and plant health, I would like to express my appreciation and congratulations to the Commission for their great job – announcement of agri-food chain legislation package which covers animal health and welfare, plant health, plant reproductive material, food safety, official control in food and feed chain and financial framework.

The effective legislation, enforcement and control are issues of great importance to ensure consumer confidence, reliability among trade partners within the European Union and sustainable food production. Even though we have the highest food safety standards in Europe comparing with the rest of the world, the recent crises in the chain of food safety, cases of mislabelling, fraud and outbreaks of animal diseases force us to go forward and update our legislation.

Currently EU legislation consists of almost 70 pieces of legislation related to the agri-food chain and by this new package announced by Commission this amount would be reduced to 5 proposals on:

  1. Animal Health;
  2. Plant Health;
  3. Marketing and Production of Seeds and Propagating Material;
  4. Official controls in the Food and Feed chain;
  5. Financial Framework

Just to bring more clarity on the said proposals I will give you a brief overview.

The aim of the new proposal on Animal Health is to regulate animal health across the EU properly and following the principle which says that prevention is better than cure. It is also aimed at improving standards and providing a common system to detect and control diseases, tackle health, food and feed safety risks in a coordinated way.

New proposal on Plant Health will replace the current legislation in this field. More attention will be directed to plant trade and movement of plants. The main aim of proposal is to strengthen the whole system to avoid the introduction of harmful pests and diseases in the EU territory and to control the outbreaks.

Speaking about the proposal on Production and Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material, we will have more simplified and flexible rules for the marketing of seeds and other plant reproductive material to ensure productivity, flexibility and diversity of European seed crop production and forests and to facilitate their trading. What is more, the proposal reflects recent research and rapid European and global market development.

An important part of the package is the proposal on official controls in the Food and Feed chain. The aim of this proposal is to simplify, unify and modernize official controls carried out by Member States at all stages of production of food and feed which would allow complete confidence in the system.

The last proposal of this package on Financial Framework is of the greatest importance. It will provide the expenditure management framework for 2014-2020 in the field of agri-food chain, animal health and welfare and plant health. The proposal will help ensure the allocation of finances to programmes carried out by Member States and funds required to tackle the outbreaks when necessary.

Each and every proposal of this package is of utmost importance, and Lithuanian Presidency will continue with the scope of the work started by the Irish colleagues. Yet, the proposal on financial framework, which as you know was announced later than the others, in early June. We are fully aware of the necessity and urgency of this proposal; therefore, we want to prioritise negotiations on this issue to reach political agreement during Lithuanian Presidency. Of course if your colleagues from COMAGRI and you, European Parliament approves these goals of the Council.

Referring to other issues, we are committed to continue the work on the Honey proposal which aims to clarify the status of pollen as a natural constituent, as distinct from an ingredient, of honey that was commenced under the Irish Presidency. I am aware that this question is also very important for the Parliament and, in particular, for your Committee. I am informed that Parliament is currently doing an impact assessment on this dossier. I will be waiting for the results of this impact assessment with eagerness and we are ready to start inter institutional discussions later on.

Referring to other issues, proposals that are coming, we are ready to start process of negotiations in order to make maximum of progress as soon as the European Commission announces the proposals in following fields: veterinary medicinal products and medicated feedingstuffs, hygiene package, legislation of zootechnical issues, and cloning for food production.

In order to form a targeted and ambitious strategy on agricultural and food product export promotion measures, discussions will take place under the Lithuanian Presidency concerning the proposal on information and promotion measures for agricultural products. We will work to strengthen the role of market organisations and their role in negotiation process in field of food chain, particularly in fruit and vegetable sector, and we will put every effort to make substantial progress concerning the proposal amending the provisions in the field of fruit and vegetable sector.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Committee, Representatives of Commission, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have given you a short basic overview of the priorities of Lithuanian Presidency in agriculture, fisheries and food safety, and as you can see, we have to find solutions to a number of important and sensitive issues jointly. As the year of 2013 is declared the Year of European Citizens it reminds us of our common responsibility towards European Citizens and demands cooperative efforts from us.

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

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