Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

Brussels, 18 September 2023


Annual fisheries consultations for 2024

Ministers exchanged views on the management of shared fishing stocks with the United Kingdom for 2024, which are the subject to annual bilateral negotiations. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, consultations between the EU and the UK on shared fish stocks are held annually, in line with the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. These consultations will take place between October and the beginning of December. During the Council meeting, ministers welcomed the timely delivery of the Commission’s proposal for the EU’s position in the fishing opportunities consultations, key to today’s rich and constructive debate.

Today’s debate has been an important starting point in defining our priorities for the fisheries consultations for 2024, which are crucial for our sector. It is key to take into account the social, economic and environmental pillars in decision-making, with the aim of guaranteeing a stable, predictable and prosperous future for fishermen and women, as well as promoting the necessary generational change.

Luis Planas Puchades, acting Spanish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Infographic – Fishing quotas after Brexit

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Ministers also exchanged views on the annual consultations with Norway, which have undergone major changes since Brexit, with six stocks being managed trilaterally by the EU, Norway and the UK. Ministers also discussed the consultations with coastal states.

During today’s meeting, ministers stressed that social, economic and environmental sustainability should be taken into account, together with the best scientific advice, as a basis for upcoming discussions. They also outlined their national priorities for the different consultations, thus providing the Commission with political guidance for the EU’s positions.



Directive on soil health

EU agriculture ministers publicly discussed the agricultural aspects of the proposed directive on soil monitoring and resilience, based on information provided by the Commission.

The ministers welcomed the proposal and the objective of improving the sustainability of soil management in the EU. During their discussion, they highlighted the importance of the directive for the agricultural sector, stressing that it can help reduce the costs of soil degradation and the loss in productivity linked to soil erosion. Additionally, ministers mentioned that it would be necessary to take into account the different types of geographical and climate-related features of member states, as well as the specificities of the various agricultural sectors in the EU. Some ministers pointed out that the administrative costs of the proposal would have to be further analysed.

The proposed directive on soil health aims to improve the quality of agricultural soils. We are aware of its importance, because soils are not only a means of production, but they are also a vital element in agricultural exploitation. We protect the good state of water and of our atmosphere through legislation. In the same way, it has been very enriching to share ideas on sustainable soil management and to express our opinion on how to protect and restore the EU’s soils, which are of strategic importance for the future of the agricultural sector.

Luis Planas Puchades, acting Spanish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

The proposed directive was published by the Commission on 5 July 2023 and is in line with the EU soil strategy, which aims for all EU soil ecosystems to be in good condition by 2050. The proposal on soil health provides a definition of what constitutes a healthy soil and establishes measures for monitoring and evaluating soil health, sustainable soil management and remediation of contaminated sites. The Environment configuration of the Council is responsible for examining it.

Trade-related agricultural issues

During their discussions, ministers addressed the current situation of international agricultural markets, focusing on the current state of trade flows of agri-food products. They also discussed negotiations conducted by the European Commission for new FTAs, including with Mercosur and Australia. As far as Australia is concerned, they pointed out that the EU’s agricultural market access offer already on the table is substantive and commercially meaningful, expressing reluctance to additional concessions. However, ministers reiterated their general support for ongoing negotiations on trade agreements, while highlighting the need to promote sustainable agriculture and ensure that environmental ambitions are respected.

In addition, the Council addressed other developments on the multilateral front and discussed agri-food trade with the EU’s main trading partners.

Ministers further took stock of the current trade-related agricultural issues, in light of the impact of recent developments linked to Russia’s war against Ukraine. In this regard, the Council reiterated its full support for Ukraine, and the Commission informed member states about the expiry, on 15 September 2023, of the safeguard measures for Ukrainian imports that applied in the five frontline member states. The Commission explained that thanks to the work of the coordination platform with Ukraine and the solidarity lanes, the market distortions in these five countries had been resolved.

The majority of member states welcomed the expiry of the safeguard measures, once it was noted that market disturbances had normalised, and considering Ukraine’s commitment to introduce measures to avoid future market distortions. Additionally, they highlighted the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the single market.

The Council concluded that it is necessary to continue monitoring the situation.

A long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas (LTVRA): shaping the future of the EU’s rural areas

During a public session, the Spanish presidency invited ministers to hold a debate on the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas. Ministers discussed the challenges that these areas are currently facing, as well as potential opportunities available to them.

The goal of the exchange was to provide political guidance, as well as suggestions and appropriate actions for the way forward. The upcoming high-level rural policy forum on shaping the future of rural areas, organised by the Spanish presidency and the European Commission, which will be held in Sigüenza (Spain) at the end of this month (27-29 September), will also provide input for this process.

At a future Council meeting, the Spanish presidency intends to propose that the Council approves conclusions on this important topic. The ministers’ political exchange will prepare the ground for this.

We must clearly define the most appropriate mechanisms to promote dynamic rural areas, in which agri-food production is one of the main assets for the future.

Luis Planas Puchades, acting Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Other business

Under other business and in public session, the Spanish presidency provided ministers with information on the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment. The presidency reiterated the importance of the resilience and sustainability of our food systems, especially in the context of climate change and considering the worsening food security situation.

Also during a public session, the Polish delegation provided information on the impact of the draft regulation on nature restoration on agriculture, while the Swedish delegation updated ministers on the African swine fever outbreak in their country. Ministers also received information from the Slovenian delegation on the damage caused by recent extreme floods to the country’s agricultural, forestry and aquaculture sectors. Additionally, the Greek delegation informed ministers about the impact of the recent devastating natural disasters in the country. Ministers also received information from the Danish delegation on simplification and better regulation in EU common policies on food, agriculture and fisheries.

‘A’ items

Ministers formally adopted a proposal for the recast of a regulation on provisions for fishing in the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) Agreement area, thus transposing into EU law a number of fisheries conservation and management measures adopted by the GFCM in 2018 and 2019.

Moreover, the Council agreed to the Commission’s proposal to provide a total of € 454.8 million in disaster relief aid to Romania and Italy, to repair damage inflicted by natural disasters in 2022, and to Türkiye, in relation to the earthquakes in February 2023. The assistance will come from the EU’s 2023 budget.

The Council also adopted a directive which amends Council decision 2005/671/JHA on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences in order to align the decision with EU rules on the protection of personal data.

Additionally, the Council gave its green light to the participation of Moldova to the EU civil protection mechanism. The Union civil protection mechanism (UCPM) coordinates the response to natural and man-made disasters at EU level. The start state for Moldova’s participation to the UCPM is 1 January 2024.

The Council also adopted without discussion the items on the lists of legislative and non-legislative A items.

Meeting information
  • Meeting n°3968
  • Brussels
  • 18 September 2023
  • 10:00
Preparatory documents
Outcome documents
Press releases


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