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EU Ministers Discuss CAP Reforms, Disaster Response

14 December 2010: EU ministers for agriculture met in Brussels, Belgium, on 13-14 December 2010, to discuss a new agricultural policy, while the Council of EU Ministers on General Affairs met in Brussels, Belgium, on 14 December 2010, to discuss options for an enhanced and cost-effective European disaster response.

The EU Agriculture Ministers held a policy debate on a proposal for a new common agricultural policy (CAP), as proposed by the European Commission in its communication “The CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future.” Many delegations argued that the CAP will still need to provide some level of farm income support in the future, as well as a safety net of market measures to help farmers cope with crisis situations, noting that these payments should also be seen as compensation for the higher standards, compared to those applied in third countries, that EU farmers have to comply with. Delegates also underscored that the CAP needs to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, in particular by promoting innovation, research and training. Finally, delegations considered compensation for production difficulties in areas with natural constraints necessary to maintain farming activity throughout the EU and to preserve the diversity of agricultural landscapes.

In its conclusions, the Council notes that an enhanced European disaster response might include: improved planning of interventions through the use of reference scenarios based on comprehensive and high-quality risk assessments; more predictable availability of member States' key assets, by setting up a pool of pre-identified assets, available within pre-agreed response times, to be deployed through a voluntary commitment from member States for European disaster relief interventions both inside and outside the EU; improved joint, cross-sectoral and comparable needs assessments in order to ensure well-informed decision making; strengthened contributions to the efforts of central international players, in particular the UN, by optimizing synergies and information sharing, also through the deployment and secondment of EU staff to the local UN coordination system; and improved EU assessment for interventions in third countries, with a view to supporting the central coordinating role of the UN.

The incoming Hungarian presidency announced that it will organize two more policy debates in January and February 2011 on sustainable management of natural resources and climate action; and balanced territorial development. [Council Conclusions]