EU council meeting sets agenda for 2006

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Eu

The first agriculture and fisheries council meeting under the
Austrian presidency of the EU, held today in Brussels, will set the
agenda for food industry reform in 2006.

Agriculture points were discussed earlier today, and food safety items will be debated this afternoon. Ministers have also been updated on the state of play of the WTO agriculture negotiations.

This morning, the Austrian presidency outlined the main priorities in the field of agriculture, food safety and fisheries for the first semester of 2006.

Organic food

The issue of organic production and the labelling of organic products for example was raised. On 21 December 2005, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on organic production, which aims to improve clarity for both consumers and farmers.

The EU believes that the new rules will be simpler, and will allow a certain amount of flexibility to take account of regional differences in climate and conditions.

Producers of organic food will be able to choose whether or not to use the EU organic logo. If they choose not to, their products must be labelled EU-organic. At least 95 per cent of the final product will have to be organic to be labelled as such.


Products containing GMOs will not be able to be labelled as organic, except those containing up to 0.9 per cent of GMO content through accidental contamination. Imports of organic products would be allowed, as long as they comply with EU standards.

Geographical indications

In addition, ministers debated the clarification of rules regarding protected geographical indications. On 23 December, the European Commission adopted two proposals to streamline regulations.

The draft regulations will ensure full compatibility with the findings of a recent WTO panel.

Cypriot national aid

Cypriot national aid was also discussed. On 21 November, Cyprus requested the council to agree on an exceptional national aid to Cypriot farmers for the purpose of repaying part of agricultural debts created long before the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

They had incurred those debts between 1974 and 1998 due to exceptional political circumstances and exceptional long-time drought. The amount of the national aid is €40 million.

The Council has to adopt a view on this request within three months of the application. If no decision has been taken within that period, the Commission shall decide on the demand.

Food Safety

Commissioner Markos Kyprianou is expected to update the council later today on the state of play with regard to the action plan on the protection and welfare of animals. The action plan aims to ensure that animal welfare is addressed in the most effective manner possible over the coming years, in all EU sectors and through EU relations with Third countries.

Avian Influenza

Commissioner Kyprianou will also update ministers on recent developments regarding avian influenza, and on measures adopted since the last agriculture council. He will also inform them about the outcome of the participation of the Commission to the Beijing Pledging Conference in January 2006.

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