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Coronavirus COVID-19

Luis Planas calls for EU to implement measures to facilitate international trade and support farming and fishing sectors in light of COVID-19 crisis

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Luis Planas underlined the need for the European Commission (EC) to head up the adoption of an urgent response in close collaboration with Member States, to address the consequences caused by COVID-19 in the farming and fisheries sectors and guarantee the smooth functioning of the international trade of agri-food products.

The minister explained that, since the declaration of the state of emergency in Spain, despite the farming and fisheries sectors remaining active, problems are being detected in specific sectors, due to the drop in sales, particularly of cut flowers and lamb, mainly due to the closure of restaurants and the cancellation of cultural and religious events.

He also highlighted the impact of border closures, which complicates the arrival of workers from other European Union States and third countries to engage in tasks to collect products, which are ready for harvesting, and the difficulties facing the fisheries and fish farming sectors in their activity, logistics, sale and distribution.

After welcoming the publication by the European Commission of the "Guidelines for border management measures" to guarantee the intra-Community traffic of food, he passed on his concern over the maintenance of international trade and asked the EC to guarantee the trade of agri-food products with third countries.

Measures to support farming sector

In relation to the farming sector, particularly within the scope of the CAP, he stated that legal and financial resources should be mobilised to implement the exceptional measures provided for in Articles 219 to 221 of the Regulation of the Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets for sectors such as cut flowers, strawberries and red fruits, as well as lamb, which are already facing exceptional circumstances.

He underlined the need for the Commission to urgently adopt all the amendments to the current legislation to take into account the current situation of force majeure. Due to the current situation, the beneficiaries of the CAP are unable to comply with the commitments, demands and deadlines provided for in the support measures in which they participate and which will lead to a loss of EU funding.

In this regard, the minister stressed the suitability of unused funds being recovered for their implementation in subsequent years, when the situation returns to normal.

Fisheries sector

He also called for an urgent and robust response by the European Union to avoid the deterioration of the structure of the fisheries sector. In this regard, Luis Planas expressed his gratitude over the rapid proposal of contingency measures by the EC, which provides for an increase in State aid, although he remarked that this is insufficient to address the current challenges.

The solution to this crisis "not only lies in activating State aid", and the commitment from the European Union should be clear, in line with what the EC stated at the latest meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries.

To that end, he recalled that the letter sent on 20 March to the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, pointed to the need to adopt several urgent measures, mainly within the framework of Regulation 508/2014, including a temporary modification to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) which would allow "immediate aid while the crisis persists" to the fisheries and aquaculture sector given the situation caused by COVID-19.

Non official translation