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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » October 27, 2011
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Agricultural Priorities of the Polish Presidency
October 27, 2011   
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The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 and issues related to improving the competitiveness of EU agriculture—these are the main priorities of the Polish presidency of the Council of the European Union in terms of agriculture.

Agriculture was a prominent topic during the first three months of Poland’s turn at the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Over this time several meetings of the Council of EU Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries were held, as well as many meetings focusing on selected problems of EU agriculture.

On presenting the priorities of the Polish presidency in Brussels, Poland’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Marek Sawicki said that Poland’s six-month presidency will primarily focus on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 and on discussions on improving the competitiveness of EU agriculture by diversifying the sources of income in agriculture and developing renewable energy sources in rural areas.

Unveiling the program, Sawicki stressed the importance that the Polish presidency attaches to animal welfare issues. In the fall, the European Commission is expected to release a report on this matter. In his statement, Sawicki also referred to what are called phytosanitary issues because regulations in this area are over 30 years old and in need of revision. EU regulations on the marketing of seeds and plant propagating material also need to be modernized and simplified. “The EU needs a harmonized and competitive market for high-quality seeds and propagating material,” said Sawicki. “At the same time we must protect the environment and take into account the ongoing globalization process and international standards.” The Polish presidency also wants to press ahead with work on documentation concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aiming to prepare the ground for the launch of three-way talks with the European Parliament in this area.

Sawicki also said that the Council welcomed a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in May on the Commission’s Green Paper on forest protection and on information on EU forests. “The good condition and sustainability of European forests, along with better information on forest resources in Europe, will be the key to better preparing our forests for the challenges posed by climate change,” said Sawicki.

One of the highlights of the first Council of EU Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, chaired by Marek Sawicki, was a presentation by the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, of a proposal for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy. According to the European Commission, a key component of the proposed reform is to ensure sustainable management of fisheries, which means fishing in a way that will not endanger the reproduction of fish herds but provide fishermen with adequate income in the long term.

In their preliminary comments on the shape of the reform, EU ministers referred to the rules proposed by the Commission for eliminating discards in European fisheries (throwing tons of unwanted fish back into the sea), in addition to the compulsory introduction of long-term concessions for fishing, regionalization of the decision-making process, and ensuring appropriate conditions for the development of aquaculture. They also talked about linking the objectives of the reform with the new European Fisheries Fund (EFF). A reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is a priority for the Polish presidency because it will establish the general principles for the sector’s operations in the years to come.

At the meeting of the Council, the European Commission also unveiled its “Green Paper on promotion measures and information provision for agricultural products,” which will kick off a debate on changing the shape of the policy. For the Polish presidency, this is an extremely important issue because the promotion of European agri-food products on EU markets and beyond is essential for ensuring the competitiveness of European agriculture.

Issues related to the promotion of agri-food products were also the topic of an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in the southwestern Polish city of Wroc³aw in September. Meanwhile, the coastal resort of Sopot hosted a conference on the use of agricultural biomass for the production of energy. The conference marked the start of pan-European debate on this issue. European societies have turned their attention to opportunities for the development of rural areas resulting from the use of biomass. The use of agricultural waste is a tool to diversify the sources of income in agriculture and is expected to contribute to improving the security of energy supply.

As part of the Polish presidency, an informal meeting of senior rural development officials was held near the eastern city of Supra¶l in late September. The meeting was organized by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The main subject of the meeting was complementary investment assistance in the development of rural areas, combined with respect for public goods and the exchange of best practices in carrying out rural development programs in EU countries.

In September, a Conference of Directors of EU Paying Agencies was also held in Sopot. Organized by the Polish paying agencies, the Agricultural Market Agency, and the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture, the conference was attended by the heads of EU paying agencies and agricultural sector institutions from EU member and candidate countries, as well as representatives from EU institutions such as the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors, and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
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