§ Lord Hughes of Woodside
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 20 to 21 April. [HL1592]
§ Lord Donoughue
My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chaired the fifth meeting under the United Kingdom Presidency of the European Union Council of Agriculture Ministers on 20 and 21 April in Luxembourg. I represented the United Kingdom.
The principal items for discussion at the Council were Commission proposals on amendments to the EU banana, tobacco and olive oil market regimes; and its proposals in respect of common agricultural policy (CAP) prices for the 1998–99 marketing year. The Council marked an important step forward in the negotiations on all of these. On bananas, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was able to conclude that the Council would work towards an agreement in June on the basis of the Commission's proposal for changes to the EU banana regime to bring it into line with the ruling of the WTO appellate body. He was also able to conclude, in relation 11WA to both tobacco and olive oil, that intensive work would continue at expert level in the light of the guidance given by the Council, with the aim of reaching early conclusions on these proposals if possible. The Council also recognised the importance of concluding the CAP price-fixing negotiation under the UK Presidency in June, and he undertook as Council chairman to work to achieve that outcome.
The Council adopted by qualified majority (Germany opposing) a proposal from the Commission extending until 31 December 1998 temporary rules on agri-monetary compensation and the freezing of green rates, but with tighter rules to reduce the risk of over-compensation.
At the request of the Dutch Agriculture Minister, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food held a debate on a Dutch memorandum on the use of marker vaccines in combatting classical swine fever. A number of delegations expressed support for Dutch proposals, while others expressed some reservations. All were mindful of the need to examine this issue against the background of what would be acceptable to the EU's international trading partners. He concluded that the Commission should continue its scientific work on this issue as a matter of urgency.
The Council held a short discussion, at the request of the French Minister, on proposed EU free trade agreements with Chile and the Mercosur countries. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food undertook as chairman of the Agriculture Council to report the views of agriculture Ministers to the General Affairs Council where these agreements are being negotiated.