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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

EU Council: Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture: Council conclusions

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture: Council conclusions

On 9 October 2017 the Council adopted conclusions, setting out the EU's position for the seventh session of the governing body of the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (ITPGRFA), which will take place in Kigali (Rwanda) from 30 October to 3 November 2017.

The conclusions focus on some of the key themes of the event, namely the role of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the review of the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing and of the funding strategy established by the treaty.

In the conclusions, the Council calls on the governing body of ITPGRFA to enhance the functioning of the existing multilateral system, expand its scope and improve its funding. It also underlines the significant contribution of farmers and local communities to the conservation and development of plant genetic resources, and the importance of the treaty's provisions on 'farmers' rights'.


Background

The international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture was adopted on 3 November 2001 by the 31st session of the Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and entered into force on 29 June 2004.

The EU and its member states are contracting parties to the international treaty, which establishes a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic material for food and agriculture and aims to ensure, through a multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing, that recipients share the benefits they derive from the use of this genetic material with the countries in which the material originates.

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EU-Chile agreement on trade in organic products confirmed

On 9 October 2017 the Council adopted a decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Chile on trade in organic products.

The new rules will be based on the principle of mutual recognition between the EU and Chile of the equivalence of their respective rules and control systems as regards organic production.

The agreement, the aim of which is to encourage trade in organic products and thereby give a boost to the development of the organic sector in the EU, also provides for a system of co-operation, exchange of information and dispute settlement in organic trade.

Background and next steps

On 6 March 2017 the Council adopted a decision on the signing of the EU-Chile agreement (see previous press release).

The agreement will enter into force three months following the final notification of the completion of the necessary internal procedures by each contacting party.

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Closer cooperation and reinforced solidarity to ensure security of gas supply

The Council adopted today a revised regulation concerning measures to safeguard the security of gas supply. The legislative act will enter into force four days after being published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The general purpose of the regulation is to reinforce the European Union energy security, reducing its dependency on others for energy supplies and enabling it to deal more quickly and efficiently with any gas supply crises.

It will also contribute to a better functioning internal energy market and to build greater trust and solidarity both within the EU and with its partners from the Energy Community.


The main elements of the regulation are:

  • enhanced regional cooperation and coordination set on risk-based groups of member states
  • mandatory regional preventive action plans and emergency plans, as well as regional risk assessments, to be prepared jointly by all member states within the same risk-group
  • a solidarity mechanism which will have a mandatory application in extreme crisis scenarios
  • increased monitoring of provisions in the gas supply contracts
  • specific obligations of EU member states towards the Energy Community, as well as Commission powers to coordinate the application of the legal framework between the EU and the Energy Community

This regulation, as well as the decision regarding intergovernmental agreements (IGA"s), are two of the main building blocks of the  Energy Union strategy.

Background

The European Council of March 2015 agreed on the commitment for the EU to build an Energy Union and called for inter alia accelerating infrastructure projects, including interconnections, in particular to peripheral regions, for electricity and gas to ensure energy security and a well-functioning internal energy market.

The Commission presented its proposal for replacing Council regulation 994/2010 on 16 February 2016.

The European Parliament's ITRE Committee voted on the report together with the EP negotiation mandate on 13 October 2016.

Following extensive work under the Netherlands and Slovak presidencies and four trilogues during the Maltese presidency, the Council reached an agreement with the European Parliament on 26 April 2017.

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Indicative programme -Economic and Financial Affairs Council of 10 October 2017

Place:        European Convention Center Luxembourg (ECCL)
Chair:        Toomas Tõniste, Minister for Finance of Estonia 

All times are approximate and subject to change. 

from 08.00 
Arrivals (live streaming

+/- 08.40       
Doorstep by Minister Tõniste 

09.00         
Ministerial breakfast (roundtable) 

10.00         
Beginning of the Council meeting

Adoption of the agenda
Adoption of Legislative A items (public session)
Any other business:
- Current financial services legislative proposals (public session)
- Definative VAT system (public session)
Adoption of non-legislative A items
European Semester 2017
Preparation of the G20 meeting
Climate finance for the COP23
Any other business
- Digital taxation 
- Status of the implementation of financial services legislation

At the end of the meeting
Press conference
(live streaming)                    

*           *           * 

In the margins of the Council:

9 October

- Eurogroup meeting: 

15.00 
roundtable 

At the end of the meeting
press conference
(live streaming)

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Remarks by Jeroen Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 9 October 2017

Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us for the Eurogoup press conference.

Let me start by saying that today was Wolfgang Schäuble's last Eurogroup. A number of colleagues took the floor to thank him and bring back to memory his long involvement. He was in the Eurogroup for 8 years, but he has been a very strong participant in discussions about Europe for, I would almost say 45 years - I believe he has been in domestic politics for 45 years. He was there and actively involved at the start of the euro and the monetary union. He was, as I said, member of the Eurogroup for 8 years, therefore present and very actively involved during all those crisis years in which the Eurozone almost fell apart. Some have said that Wolfgang Schäuble is dominant because Germany is dominant. Germany is a large country, but I think that is completely misunderstanding his position and the authority that he has among us, the colleagues. This has to do with his experience, but also his wisdom and his strong focus on the European interest. I've always been convinced, even in the toughest discussions that we had in the Eurogroup in the five years that I was involved, that he always put the long term interest of a strong and stable Eurozone first. He always kept a very strong view of that long term interest. And I think that has been mutually valuable for all of us.  

So we thanked him, professionally and personally, and wished him well in his new and very important job in Berlin. Of course, we will immediately meet him again tomorrow at Ecofin, but it was his last Eurogroup. And then Washington, where he will also join us at the IMF/World Bank meetings.

Our main discussion today was on the role of the ESM. A discussion that, of course, takes place in the broader context of the future of the monetary union. Next month, we will continue that debate when we will focus on the completion of the banking union and on a number of fiscal issues, both the present fiscal framework - is it effective? how should it be changed, if it should be changed? - but also what possible new instruments we would need in terms of fiscal policy. So those are the topics for next month.

Today, we focused on the role of the ESM, along, basically, 3 strands. First of all, the role of the ESM in crisis management: how it could be strengthened, deepened. Secondly, the role of the ESM in the completion of the banking union. And thirdly, issues of governance and relation with the EU legal framework. 

It was a very good discussion. Among the member states, the ministers, there was quite a strong agreement on that we should work predominantly within the current legal framework, in the ESM treaty. It means that the current governance setup could, in general terms, work also for the future, not precluding future changes or integration, in the future, in the European institutional frameworks.

Secondly, there was a strong positive sense about the work that the ESM has done. The ESM has now existed for five years and has been very effective, both on the financing sides and in bringing in the money on both sides of the balance sheets so to speak. Number of colleagues have pointed out that the ESM has more instruments than it has so far used. We could look at that to see what future role, further role, could be envisaged, but also possible additional instruments. Also that should be further discussed. I think everyone agreed that the ESM has a very strong role to play, not just in crisis management but possibly also in the prevention of the future crises. 

And, finally, there was quite a broad support in involving the ESM in providing a backstop to the single resolution fund. Of course, as you know, that's part of the roadmap for the banking union which outline number of actions that need to take place. I think next month we will discuss that whole agenda, that whole roadmap, but there seems to be a strong support for the ESM in the role of a backstop.

So I was quite happy with that debate and we will continue it and complete it working towards the eurozone summit in December.

Also, today, we discussed the topic of the tax wedge on labour. As you may recall, since 2014, we've had this topic on our agenda, following it closely. The Commission is monitoring progress, we've developed common principles to guide the reforms of the tax wedge. The euro-area tax wedge on labour is still very high, also looking at OECD statistics. There are also some big differences between countries.

Today, three of our colleagues shared the progress they have made on this topic, in Austria and in Belgium. And the French minister talked about the progress made in the past, for example in the period that Pierre Moscovici was minister in France, and the plans that the current French government has for the future. So, lots of lessons to be learned, also on how to finance these tax reforms. We will come back to that already in December, when the Commission will also report, this is an annual exercise, on the progress being made throughout the eurozone on the topic of the tax burden on labour. We will come back to that in December and continue this push for reforms. 

Finally, we had two recurring items on our agenda. One is the post-programme monitoring for Portugal, the second one was a short discussion on exchange rates developments.

We commended Portugal for the recent improvements in economic performance, while, of course, recalling the importance of maintaining the reform momentum and continuing on the road of fiscal consolidation.

On exchange rates we noted that the euro has strengthened in recent months but it is broadly in line with long term averages.

Finally, let me make a few remarks, because you will ask me anyway, about my position. The rumour is that we will have a new government in the Netherlands. The latest news is that it could be in office in the week of 23 October, so I would leave my job in that week. I have put to the colleagues in the Eurogroup today that it would be my intention to complete my mandate which runs until 13 January, of course, if the colleagues in the Eurogroup would support that. There was unanimous support for that, everyone was content with me staying on until mid-January.

Finally, I said a few words about the election process of a new chair of the Eurogroup. His or her mandate would start as of the Eurogroup of January, but the election should take place at the end of the Eurogroup meeting in December. Candidates can be put forward in the two weeks before the Eurogroup of December, so starting on 4 December. And then, hopefully, in the January Eurogroup there will be a new chair.

That's all I can say for now and I will turn to Pierre.

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