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EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels

Luis Planas calls for progress on CAP reform to provide security in preparation of strategic plans

Monday 22 March 2021

Luis Planas is attending the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council taking place on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels. The meeting will be used to discuss the current situation of the national strategic plans as well as the three Regulations aimed at reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that are currently being debated in the European Parliament. Talks will also focus on the fishing options between the European Union and the United Kingdom for 2021 and deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022.

The Spanish minister, Luis Planas, believes that structured dialogue between the various Member States and the European Commission is an essential factor in drawing up the strategic plans, especially in terms of the consideration given to the EU-wide recommendations and objectives under the "European Green Deal". "This change of approach is essential to enabling progress by Member States" - with certainty and security - in their endeavours to prepare national strategic plans.

According to Luis Planas, these new strategic plans represent an opportunity for Member States to focus actions stemming from the CAP on those measures identified by Spain as priorities so they can be more effective.

Spain supports the 17 recommendations issued by the European Commission on drawing up the national Strategic Plan, 16 of which relate to needs already identified and highly prioritised in the analysis conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The final recommendation relates to broadband coverage throughout the national territory by 2025, which will also be included in the Strategic Plan and was already included by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation in the Digital Spain 2025 Strategy.

The Spanish minister stressed that the Strategic Plan approval procedure can only be assessed on the basis of legal texts of a binding nature for Member States, "not only on goals or intentions from the European Commission but rather on the basis of commitments with legal backing". Besides approval by the European Commission, Luis Planas believes it necessary to engage in political debate at the Council to guarantee a level playing field in the Strategic Plan approval process.

CAP Regulations

As regards the CAP Regulations and in terms of the debate surrounding whether the definition of 'genuine farmer' should be compulsory for Member States or not, the Spanish minister underlined Spain's intention to apply this definition.

In terms of the performance evaluation, Luis Planas explained that the future CAP is based on the achievement of specific targets and that the measurement of their achievement according to a performance evaluation should be as simple as possible. "It makes no sense to propose a double layer of control" when considering that this reform seeks to simplify things.

As regards the matter of social conditionality, he stressed that Spain is open to considering any issue brought to the table but only provided that it does not impose an additional burden on crop and livestock farmers, and that "it does not jeopardise their reputation".

On the Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets (COM), the Spanish minister calls for greater ambition in terms of the actions and reciprocity in the use of plant protection products with regard to trade agreements with third countries. On the COM, Luis Planas stressed that Spain has already ensured that the authorisations for new vineyard plantations in the Council Agreement of October (up to a maximum annual increase of 1%) will be maintained until 2040. Spain supports reaching an agreement with the European Parliament to set an expiry year that could be between 2040 and 2050.

As regards the tough situation in the wine sector stemming from restrictions in the HORECA channel, Spain is going to ask for the European Commission to establish additional funds for crisis measures over and above the funds from the Programme to Support the Wine Sector (Spanish acronym: PASVE) aimed at measures to modernise the sector and boost competitiveness. Luis Planas will ask for additional funds to be established by making use of the budgetary margins in the CAP that will foreseeably not be used during the current year. 13 other Member States have signed up to this Spanish request, which have recently been bolstered by Germany.

Biological pest control will be another matter of debate at the Council meeting, for which the European Commission places an emphasis on the early detection mechanism. Spain is one of the countries most interested in ensuring that this fight against biological pests is fought across the board at an EU level. The Spanish minister stressed the importance of the early detection of plant pests and diseases and clearly underlined the importance of the prevention plans and investments to be made by his ministerial department to modernise the animal and plant health laboratories overseen by the department.

BREXIT, another extension

On the matter of fishing, the negotiations with the United Kingdom and total allowable catches (TAC) will focus on talks between the ministers overseeing this topic. Faced with the possibility that the European Commission may not reach an agreement before 31 March, an extension to the December agreement until 31 July was proposed. Spain supports this action now based on the hypothetical definitive TAC for 2021 and not according to the 2020 TAC, as was the case in December, for the first three months of this year.

Luis Planas believes that two fundamental issues must be given priority in the consultations with the United Kingdom: the issue of giving clarity and certainty to EU fishermen as soon as possible; and the undeniable defence of EU interests and the principles of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The Spanish minister also believes that a level playing field must also exist for European and UK fleets. In this regard, Luis Planas expressed his concern over the UK's predilection to favour unilateral solutions in certain situations. "There are lines that cannot be crossed", he said.

Quota increases

Spain will defend an increase in the quotas for various fisheries of interest to the country.

As a result, and due to the marked seasonality of anglerfish and megrim fishing in Zone 6, Spain will ask for a higher proportional quota for seven months than that applied for grouper. The same request will be made for anglerfish in Zone 7; not due to fishing seasonality but rather due to the small quota allocated to Spain in this stock. This issue would be resolved using quota swapping in a normal year, but that solution will be difficult on this occasion due to the uncertainty generated by the fact that negotiations with the United Kingdom have not yet concluded.

At any event, the main priority for Spain is to maintain the quotas for sea bream in Zones 6, 7 and 8, an issue on which it has the support of the European Commission as expressed in the extension proposal being debated over these two days.

Finally, and on the issue of cod in the Celtic Sea, for which the Spanish fleet has no specific allocation, Luis Planas will defend a higher TAC than that appearing in the extension proposal given that the exchange system through which Spain benefits from the stock has been limited following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Furthermore, Spain will support the French action on the so-called Porto Letters, under which Norway must guarantee certain Arctic cod quotas in exchange for its relationship with the European Economic Area.

Non official translation