Minister Jari Leppä presents Finland’s priorities to European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä was in Brussels Monday for a lively exchange of views with the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). He presented the priorities of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU to the committee and replied to the questions of its members.
In climate action, Minister Leppä told the committee that Finland would seek agreement on the EU’s long-term climate strategy. He assured the committee that the presidency would continue to strive to put the brakes on biodiversity loss.
A key priority for the Agriculture and Fisheries Council during Finland’s Presidency is the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “Finland will try to take the Council's position forward as far as possible,” said Minister Leppä. “However, the progress of CAP reform is closely linked to the progress of the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework.” According to Leppä, a balance must be found between the CAP reform and the financial framework.
He pointed out that the new ‘green architecture’ of the CAP calls for more mandatory environmental measures. On the other hand, it permits member states to prepare national environmental measures under the first pillar (market measures) and second pillar (rural development policy) of the CAP.
”Negotiations are still ongoing, however. As president-in-office, I wish to make sure that the new green architecture takes the differences in conditions in the member states and regions and the needs of farmers into account. This approach will provide us with environmental and climate measures that are effective in the exact place where they are carried out”, Leppä said.
The EU agriculture ministers will meet informally in Helsinki in September. According to Minister Leppä, the meeting will focus on carbon sequestration in agricultural soils. “This is a crucial theme if we think of ways for farmers to contribute to climate action”, Leppä said.
With regard to fisheries, Finland seeks a general approach on the open issues in the proposal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The fishing quotas for 2020 will need to be decided this autumn.
The minister also drew attention to global deforestation. Deforestation is proceeding at an alarming rate and urgent action is needed to stop it. According to Leppä, what is needed in addition to afforestation is sound and sustainable management, protection and restoration of forests. “Finland’s Presidency stands ready to promote the implementation of measures to combat deforestation,” he said.
Minister Leppä also raised the issue of political agreement on the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, which had given rise to a great deal of discussion at the most recent Agriculture Council.
“This is a very important agreement. However, there are concerns about sustainability and the impact of the agreement on trade in sensitive agricultural products. I understand these concerns well. I therefore consider it important that the Mercosur Agreement should include a chapter on sustainable development. Both the Paris Agreement on climate action and the precautionary principle, which is important to the EU, are included in the Mercosur Agreement.”
According to Leppä, the purpose of the Mercosur safeguard clauses, like those in other international trade agreements, is to guarantee consumer confidence in food safety. Animal and plant health in the EU must not be allowed to deteriorate.
Leppä also noted that the issue of transporting live animals from the EU in hot weather, as raised by the Commission last week, is an important question for Finland that needs better answers.
“Consumers should have the assurance that the entire production chain for the final product is a responsible one, and that animal welfare has been taken into account throughout. This should also be the case for animals exported from the EU.”
Leppä also pointed out that that Finland’s Presidency was prioritising the prevention of antimicrobial resistance. “Slowing the spread of antimicrobial resistance is of paramount importance to avoid any loss in the effectiveness of existing antimicrobials in treating humans and animals,” Leppä said.
The members of the committee asked questions about all of the issues raised by Leppä, including the level of CAP funding and setting limits on the use of glyphosate. Leppä assured the committee that Finland would defend the level of CAP funding in the financial framework negotiations. On the subject of glyphosate, Leppä drew attention to the ways in which it is used, which has an impact on the hazards involved.
Teppo Säkkinen, Special Adviser, +358 50 51628 68, [email protected]