Skip to content

EU agriculture ministers support initiative to update conservation status of large carnivores

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Publication date 23.1.2024 22.36 | Published in English on 25.1.2024 at 17.08
Press release

The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council discussed international trade in agricultural products, the organisation of the strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture, a proposal for a regulation on a forest monitoring framework and, on Finland’s initiative, large carnivore matters.

The EU agriculture ministers convened in Brussels on 23 January 2024 at the first Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Finland had prepared an agenda item concerning large carnivores, wishing to support the European Commission’s initiative to downgrade the conservation status of wolf under the Bern Convention. Finland urged to make the same changes to the annexes of the Annexes to the Habitats Directive. Finland also pointed out that, besides wolf, there are other large carnivore populations that have increased and are in a favourable conservation status. In Finland, the brown bear and lynx populations have grown manifold during the EU membership and their conservation status has been favourable for many years.

Finland’s initiative received broad support. A number of ministers expressed their concern over the challenges that large carnivore populations pose on agriculture and rural areas across Europe. The Commission replied that it will assess the development of large carnivore populations together with Member States. The Chair of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council informed the ministers that he will communicate the main points of the discussion to the Environment Council, which is the Council configuration responsible for the question. 
“The ministers were quite unanimous and their discussion showed that growing large carnivore populations are creating societal challenges in other Member States, too, especially in rural areas. There is a clear need for change, and the Council sent the Commission a strong message,” says Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sari Essayah. 
The agriculture ministers also discussed a proposal for a regulation for a forest monitoring framework, which the Commission issued in November last year. Minister Essayah stressed the importance of a consistent and high-quality system for forest monitoring. She also expressed her concern that the estimation of the cost-effectiveness of the proposed regulation is insufficient as regards countries with large forest cover, such as Finland.
The agriculture ministers were informed by the Commission of the various opportunities and challenges linked to international trade in agricultural products. The EU has ongoing trade negotiations with Australia, Mercosur and other trading partners. The ministers focused their discussion on the EU’s trade with Ukraine. The Commission is expected to decide on the future of the EU-Ukraine trade terms in the next few weeks.
“The EU must continue its strong, efficient and united support to Ukraine as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues. We need to create a stable and long-term trading environment with Ukraine by using EU-level measures,” Minister Essayah says. 
In addition, the Council discussed the initiative of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concerning a strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU. The Council highlighted the importance of ensuring that all Member States and stakeholders of the food system will be heard when future policies are being decided. Minister Essayah reminded the Council of the special conditions for agriculture in the north and of the importance of profitable food production. 
“The EU’s agriculture and food system is facing major challenges. In the coming years, it will be affected by a number of factors, ranging from climate change and biodiversity loss to EU enlargement and the altered geopolitical environment. Future reforms must be prepared so that food production remains profitable across Europe,” Minister Essayah says. 

Iina Mattila, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 473 6221
Kari Valonen, Senior Specialist, tel. +32 473 525 630

EU and international affairs Food and agriculture