Ministers adopt more EU integration papers

Agriculture, Development, Councils agree strategies for submission to Helsinki summit

Two more EU ministerial formations have adopted draft strategies for integrating environment and sustainable development into their sectoral work as the Helsinki summit of heads of government approaches.

The fuller of the two papers was adopted today by agriculture ministers, who are part of a "first wave" of three council formations, along with energy and transport, which were requested to deliver to next month's summit detailed strategies including timetables and indicators. A shorter report agreed last week by ministers for development cooperation is part of a second wave of more preliminary documents being prepared also by EU internal market and industry ministers.

In their strategy for Helsinki, agriculture ministers stress that the recent Agenda 2000 reform of the common agriculture policy (CAP) should be seen as the foundation for making farming more sustainable. The reform "provides many possibilities for practising sustainable agriculture. The member states are now to implement these new means to ensure that sustainability becomes the reality of European agriculture," ministers conclude.

Building on the CAP reform, the report says, the key principle for further progress will be recognition that a reference level of "good agricultural practices...should be respected in all agricultural areas of the EU." Farmers should be compensated if they deliver a higher environmental quality than this standard.

The subsidiarity principle should be respected, given the diversity of European agriculture, the report says. It finds that integration of environmental concerns "must be compatible with the polluter pays principle," and notes that "appropriate application" of the precautionary principle "helps to avoid irreversible damages".

The report does not contain timetables for action. It notes that work is underway to develop environmental and agri-environmental indicators, and that indicators for sustainable forest management have already been developed. Ministers call for regular reporting of comparable data on agricultural "driving forces," such as production systems, usage of fertilisers and pesticides.

In their report, meanwhile, EU development ministers call on the European Commission and member states to "actively review the scope for greater policy coherence" when integrating environment and sustainable development into EU development cooperation policies. The document pledges that ministers will continue to "play a key role in improving the environmental performance of EU aid," and calls on the Commission to prepare a specific strategy, including a timetable, to achieve greater integration.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111. References: Press releases for both Councils are posted on the web site, including the full text of the Development Council report.

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