§ Margaret Beckett
I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council meeting on 21 January in Brussels. The council held initial debates on commission 1033W proposals concerning potato starch quotas and animal health requirements governing the movement of pet animals. I welcomed both proposals and, on the latter, stressed the importance of having rules safeguarding against the risk of importing rabies that were fully based on scientific advice.
The council agreed unanimously to permit Portugal to pay a state aid to pig producers to offset the repayment of aids paid illegally in 1994 and 1998. In consenting to this I expressed grave concern at the council's increasing tendency to approve aids which, particularly in sensitive sectors such as pigmeat, could undermine the integrity of the Single Market.
The council also received a report from Commissioner Byrne on the commission's progress in negotiating veterinary and phytosanitary equivalence agreements with third countries, notably in relation to the Mercosur countries and Chile. I welcomed this but called upon the Commission to ensure all Mercosur countries complied with existing obligations to permit imports of milk products and bovine semen from all EU countries.