Council supports voluntary milk reduction scheme

Yesterday, the Agriculture Council agreed on a package of 13 measures to bring relief to agricultural markets in difficulty. Most attention has focused on the Commission’s willingness to invoke Article 222 of the CMO Regulation to permit producer organisations and recognised interbranch organisations in the dairy sector to introduce voluntary measures to reduce milk supplies, financed by member state funds. This attention is due more to the unusual nature of the measure rather than an assessment of its likely effectiveness.

The measure was put forward by Commissioner Hogan in his address to the Council. The agreement is summarised here in the Presidency Council conclusions and here in this DG AGRI press release following the meeting.

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Temporary supply management for milk offers no solution

The agenda for Ministers meeting at the Agriculture Council meeting tomorrow Monday 14th March includes a discussion of the difficult market situation facing a number of agricultural sectors, including dairy, pigmeat and fruits and vegetables. Ministers will assess the adequacy and effectiveness of the market support measures currently in place, and whether additional measures could be envisaged.

At last month’s February Council, member states were invited to submit concrete proposals on possible additional measures, on top of the €500 million aid package adopted by the Council last September (extraordinarily, only 10 out of 28 member states have so far introduced schemes to spend this money).

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Back to the CAP's future: An interest- or evidence-based policy?

In May 2016, at an informal AGRIFISH Council meeting, the Dutch Presidency will discuss the CAP post-2020. A mere 2.5 years after the last reform (finalised in December 2013) and just after the first execution of the new First Pillar payments and Rural Development Programme schemes in 2015, a new round of discussions about the rationale, goals, measures and impacts, of the CAP is already beginning; in effect, a new CAP reform.

Entering the first phase of reform, we may assume that the formation of political decisions and new legislation will take place in familiar stages. In the first stage, everything goes; it is marked by diverse and opposing opinions of Member States, think-tanks, interest groups and individuals.

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Agriculture in the debate over Brexit

The European Council meets this Thursday in the hope that it will agree on a package of measures that will satisfy the UK’s demand for a renegotiation of its relationship with the EU. The details of the package and the main stumbling blocks are spelled out in the Council President Donald Tusk’s invitation to leaders to the Council meeting. The mood music leading up to the summit meeting is constantly changing. Whether this is a careful choreography to persuade voters back home that what will be achieved is a significant deal, or whether the continuing objections will derail a deal will be clearer by the end of this week.

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The 2016 mid-term review of the Multi-annual Financial Framework

Imagine a scenario where UK voters go to the polls later this year to vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU, while at the same time in Brussels a debate is in full swing over whether to increase the ceilings for the 2014-2020 Multi-annnual Financial Framework (MFF), and thus the UK contribution to the EU budget. This seems to be the nightmare scenario behind the story carried by Euractiv earlier this week based on the views of an anonymous EU official and which declared that “the major event in the calendar of the Juncker Commission, the midterm review of the European Union’s 7 year budget, has been effectively cancelled”.

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What endgame for GIs in the TTIP negotiations?

I have previously written on the importance that the EU places on extending protection for its geographical indications (GIs) in its negotiations with the US on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. In that post, I looked at how the protection of GIs was addressed in a number of recent EU free trade agreements, notably those with South Korea (EUKOR) and with Canada (CETA).

GIs remain one of the tough nuts to crack in the TTIP negotiations, for reasons I outline in this presentation. In a recent update on the outlook for the TTIP talks from Bloomberg, its report included GIs along with certain agricultural tariffs and sensitivities on government procurement and financial services as among the endgame issues where a resolution would only be expected as part of the political trade-offs at the end of the talks.

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WTO dimensions of a UK 'Brexit' and agricultural trade

Following a first round of discussions on UK demands for a renegotiation of the terms of its membership of the EU at the European Council meeting last month, it now seems that the February meeting of the Council will agree on some package of measures and promises in response to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands. It will then be up to Cameron to decide if this package is sufficient for him to campaign to stay in the EU in the referendum promised to take place before the end of 2017 and possibly later this year.

Even if Cameron decides to campaign in favour of staying in, there is no guarantee that the UK voters will follow him.

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