The timetable for the hearings of the 26 Commissioners-designate is now confirmed by the European Parliament's Conference of Committee Chairs. Some candidates will have to be heard by several committees simultaneously. The hearings will take place from 11 to 15 January in Brussels and will continue on 18 and 19 January in Strasbourg. The final vote of the Commission as a whole is still set for 26 January in Brussels but if problems arise with any of the candidates, it will probably be postponed until the plenary of 8-11 February in Strasbourg. More details on the hearings agenda in the below document.
While the 6 months of the Swedish Presidency are going to end, Spain will be at the helm of the EU from 1 January 2010 . Socialist Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the Spanish EU Presidency will put citizens first on the agenda and wishes to reinforce Europe's social dimension - including the issue of equality between men and women. The fight against gender-based violence is high on the agenda too. Spanish officials also confirmed that the competitiveness of the food & agriculture sector will remain on the agenda. Further work on the simplification and the role of women in rural areas will also be on the agenda. The 6 Council meetings are scheduled for Jan 18-19, Feb 22-23, Mar 29-30, April 19-20, May 17-18, June 28-29. The future of CAP market mechanisms will be discussed by the EU Farm Ministers at the February's Council while an informal Farm Council will take place in Extremadura (May 30 June 1) to look back at 3 elements of the future CAP: direct payments; Rural Development and Market Measures. More information available on the website of the Spanish Presidency is www.eutrio.es
The future Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies - the Troika Presidency, see news 03/11/2009 - presented the draft 18 months programme of the Council. In their priorities, the 3 forthcoming Council Presidencies aim to better integrate the environment into other relevant policies - such as transport, energy & agriculture. Other issues include quality policy, competitiveness of the agri-food industry, a review of the POSEI regulation, forestry, simplification & broader coherence. For Rural Development, the paper specifically refers to the new delimitation of LFAs. It seems that in environmental terms, the renewed emphasis on the sustainable development & the greening policies will be the overarching priorities of the 3 Presidencies. In SANCO terms, the troika will continue to work on the Animal Health Strategy Action Plan 2007-2013, while a proposal on the EU Animal Health Law will also be tabled within this time-frame. The 89 page draft is available at the file below. EFBA will particularly pay attention on the foodstuffs legislation; climate change; biodiversity; sustainable consumption and production; quality of agricultural products; rural development and animal health and welfare.
It has recently emerged that Goerg Häusler (Austria) is to be Chef de Cabinet of Agriculture Commissioner-designate Dacian Ciolos (Romania). As from the rest of the Cabinet, there are strong indications that Ciolos is looking for a team with a Mediterranean connection, rather than the French appearance that many had expected. Another Romanian Ionel Sorin Moisa (official in DG TREN responsible for international transport) has been asked to become the Deputy Chef de Cabinet and at least one further Romanian and a Pole have already been recruited as "normal" Cabinet members. It seems that none of the current members of the Fisher Boel Cabinet will be retained. New Health Commissioner John Dalli has chosen Joanna Darmanin to be his Chef de Cabinet. Karel de Gucht, new Trade Commissioner, will keep Marc Vanheukelen as his Chef de Cabinet while Kurt Vandenberghe will be chef de Cabinet of Janez Potocnik, new Environment Commissioner. Peter Vis will be chef de Cabinet of Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner. Regarding the 26 hearings of the Commissioners-designate in January, the Conference of Group Presidents should propose the final agenda by the end of this week.
EFBA is pleased to announce that its video on fur-farming in Europe is now also available on YouTube! You can access to the movie via the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sPa4eeNWz0 The movie entitled "Fur farming in Europe: The truth" is a response to our opponents who spent, for many years, significant resources to show emotional and shocking pictures. These pictures do not reflect the European fur-farming sector. These pictures are usually filmed in an illegal manner and false! By playing this short movie, we want to demonstrate that our European fur-farmers have to respect very strict National and European animal welfare rules. Fur is a very delicate product and the way our farmers breed their animals affect the quality of the product. Animal mistreatments... use by our opponents are only there for sensational information. This is our truth. We have nothing to hide and this is why we invite anyone to come visiting a European fur-farm. Openness and transparency are our key words! We invite you to come and watch it, rate it and post comments! Because your opinion counts, a short pool on fur-farming is also available on the EFBA website: http://www.efba-eu.com/video.html We thank you for taking one minute of your time to reply to these 3 short questions! Spread the word!
On 27 November, José Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission, proposed the next Commissioners of the new Commission who will now be able to start preparing for their hearing in front of the European Parliament, set for 11 to 19 January. The formal EP vote of approval on the College will tentatively be held on 26 January. The former Romanian Farm Minister Dacian Ciolos is proposed as the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, succeeding Mariann Fischer Boel. Johan Dalli (Malta's former Foreign Minister) has been named responsible for Health (including food safety & animal health). Karel De Gucht (Belgium) has been nominated as the new Commissioner for Trade. A number of structural changes within the European Commission will be observed: the creation of a new Directorate General for Climate Action, and the shift of the Unit in DG ENVI responsible for Biotechnology, Pesticides & Health to DG SANCO. The new Commission College has 14 members who are already Commissioners (and not one of them has kept the same portfolio, apart from Barroso, as President of course). The new commissioners' portfolios is available on the link: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_designate_2009-2014/index_en.htm
Since yesterday evening, Herman Van Rompuy, current Prime Minister of Belgium (centre-right) became the first President of the European Council for 2.5 years. In this new position created by the Lisbon Treaty, the mission of Mr. Van Rompuy will be to prepare and manage the regular meetings between the 27 heads of State and try to find consensus. Herman Van Rompuy, 62, has to leave his functions in Belgium by December 1, when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. The second new position appeared with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty is the new High Representative for Foreign Policy. The role will be fulfilled by Catherine Ashton, 53, UK. She will have to manage a new Diplomatic Service of a few thousands people. EFBA welcomes those nominations and has sent congratulations to these two persons.
The European Commission suggests, in a report adopted on 28 October, some options for EU animal welfare labeling: the establishment of requirements for the voluntary use of animal welfare claims; a voluntary Community Animal Welfare label (subject to certain criteria and considered the most feasible at this stage); and the drafting of guidelines for animal welfare labeling & quality schemes. The report also develops the idea of creating a European network of reference centres for the protection and welfare of animals on the model of the Community reference laboratories for animal health. This network would provide technical support for the development and implementation of animal welfare policies, including for certification and labeling. As a study carried out for the purpose of the report shows a lack of animal welfare information on food products, these options would enable consumers to identify and choose welfare-friendly products and to give producers incentive to improve animal welfare. The 10-page report is available under the link below:
Yesterday the Czech Constitutional Court gave the green light to the Lisbon Treaty. President Vaclav Klaus signed the landmark document which will make the treaty enter into force - in principle - on December 1. To accelerate the process of filling the top posts created by Lisbon, the Swedish Presidency could decide to convene an extraordinary summit around 12 November. This would allow the 27 to appoint the permanent president of the European Council and the high representative for foreign policy. The Commission president could then set up his new team immediately afterwards. One of the other main changes to be integrated is the new composition of the Parliamentary assembly since it will increase from 736 to 754 members (+4 for Spain; +2 for Austria, France and Sweden; +1 for Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and UK). These new MEPs will initially sit as observers, without the right to vote, from the date of entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. They will then take office once the new composition of 754 members is inscribed in primary law. The current Commission's mandate ended on 31 October and it is now simply a caretaker executive.
As from January 1, 2010, Spain will take over the EU Council's Presidency for 6 months, followed by Belgium in the second half of 2010 and Hungary beginning of 2011. On this occasion, the three countries have presented a logo that will symbolise the idea of working together at Union's helm. Primes Ministers, José Luis Zapatero (Spain), Herman Van Rompuy (Belgium) and Gordon Bajnai (Hungary) specified the priorities that their countries would aim to share: "the recession; the climate change; the social agenda; promoting a social and competitive Europe". They also make the revision of the Lisbon strategy a key priority. Other objectives are also on the draft common programme such as "energy and the climate; the revision of the Community's agriculture, fisheries and cohesion policies; the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty; the modernisation of the financial system, the struggle against poverty and social exclusion;..." The future website of the three Presidencies are www.eutrio.es, www.eutrio.be and www.eutrio.hu
Animal rights activists released 5000 mink in the Netherlands last week. Almost all of them have been recaptured. Thanks to the prompt react of the police, a German lady, who was already known by the police, has been arrested. In the light of what has been done, it is realistic to expect that more people will be arrested. The police even used a helicopter and special trained dogs. The enormous input of the police and the Ministry of Justice shows that they want to handle the animal terrorism with proactive actions. This is the second release in the Netherlands this year and in both cases the police arrested suspected people. EFBA and the national associations are pleased to see the good results of a strong collaboration with the police to stop these illegal and irresponsible attacks.
Considered as extremist by the FBI, Animal Liberation Front (ALF) claims the responsibility for the attack against the French fur-farm in Dordogne. Causing severe material damages into the farm, they released up to 4.200 minks. More than 90% of them have been recaptured so far and actions continue to be taken to recover the few groups remaining. The investigation by the national authorities is still ongoing.
Friday 16 October in Dordogne, France, some activists entered illegally into a fur farm and caused material damages to release up to 4,200 minks. So far, about the half has been recuperated with the help of friends and neighbors. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but the police investigate. EFBA and all its national associations strongly oppose to this unacceptable and irresponsible attack that causes severe outcomes for the work of a whole life's farmer.
World mink production declined this year for the second time after more than a decade of solid growth, the latest drop also largely reflecting a further cutback by China. With a mink production of 4 million pelts in 2002 to an estimated 18 million in 2007, China production dropped to an estimated 12 million in 2008 and 9 million this year. Denmark, with its mink production unchanged at 14 million pelts, remains the world's leading supplier. Finland's mink crop went up about 10% to 2.1 million while the other Northern European countries went down: Sweden (-8% to 1.2 million); Norway (-10% to 600.000); Iceland (-7% to 150,000). Holland, Canada and Baltic States are unchanged with respectively 4.5 million, 2.3 million and 2 million. World production of ranched foxes showed a greater decline than mink, again largely reflecting a slash in Chinese output.
This Friday the Irish Fur Breeders' Association and the European Fur Breeders' Association have published a communication campaign in the Irish Independent. On Saturday 10th October will be held the Green Party convention in which many animal rights activists will join. The group's priority is a ban on fur farming based on "public morality". This policy means in practice that everything which one does not happen to like could be prohibited.
The campaign aims to inform the public and the politicians that fur farming is a form of production animal among others. Our farmers across Europe are pleased to work hard to follow the very high regulated standards in Europe to guarantee the best welfare for their animals. Please click on the PDF below to read our Q&A and if you wish to receive further information, do not hesitate to contact us.
First rejected in June 2008, the Lisbon Treaty is finally approved by 67% of Irish voters in the referendum organised on October 2. While the outcome in Poland and in the Czech Republic is still unknown, the adoption of the Treaty by Ireland is a good step ahead to lay out new structures of the EU. Internally, it will ease the adoption of new laws of a range of issues. There will be a significant change in future negotiations on Cohesion Policy and the Structural Funds. Co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament will be the norm. MEPs will have a greater say in the rules of the game. Externally, the treaty aims to enhance the EU's role on the world stage and streamline its decision-making
On September 4th 2009 the respected Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet ran a story with the headline "The media can be too quick". The Secretary General of the Norwegian Press Association commented that when emotional subjects are reported, the press may go too far in their conclusions. He was referring to a fur farmer who has strong evidence that healthy animals were substituted for ones that had been injured in images of his farm submitted to a Norwegian TV company by animal rights activists. The case is currently under investigation. "Misinformation about the fur trade and fur farming abounds in the media. The reality is that fur farmers across the board are responsible and take animal welfare very seriously, investing in research and in maintaining conditions for animals that satisfy high welfare standards. However, this does not make for exciting news headlines" says Andy Lenhart, Chairman of the International Fur Trade Federation and Knud Vest, Chairman of the European Fur Breeder's Association.
EU professional agricultural organisations and negotiators worry about the draft regulation drawn up by the European Commission on animal welfare during transportation. The new standards envisaged by the Commission would have disastrous consequences on the whole of the European meat sector, both from an economic and social point of view: 1) the truck load capacity criteria would result in a significant increase in transport costs; 2)obligations relating to the structure of trailers and ventilation would oblige professionals to invest more than €200 million in their adaptation for the pig sector alone; 3) the sector fears that the new rules on transport time are just a source of needless complications. The modification associated with the legislation set up in 2005 have already cost more than €1.5 billion alone in terms of truck compliance and a similar amount in administrative costs. Following this and in order to allow sufficient time for the recently adopted legislation to be set up, professionals are campaigning to postpone any new initiatives.
The European Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup has its new president: Caroline Lucas (Greens-EFA, UK) and she will take the role for the first half of the legislature with the objective that the intergroup "continues to be the champion of animal protection in Europe".
With 382 votes in favour, 219 against and 117 abstentions, José Manuel Barroso won, yesterday in Strasbourg, the role of Commission chief for a second five-year term. The former prime minister of Portugal have got a broad support from the right wing while in the opposite camp, those voting against Barroso doubtless included people from the Greens and also members of the radical left GUE-NGL, Europhobic and xenophobic members of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. The ‘no' camp is also composed by the French, Greek, Belgian and some Italian Socialists. Most of the rest of the PES made the choice of abstention. While the vote took place under the Nice treaty rules, which requires a simple majority of votes cast, the European Commission president even rallied the absolute majority needed under the Lisbon Treaty and thus close the debate on the need for a second vote of approval once the new treaty comes into force. The new president is now expected to keep the promises he made and to be a strong and energetic president, independent of member states' pressure and proactive in seeking common European action notably in the economic sphere. The president has to form a new team of 26 Commissioners in the next coming weeks. The new Commission should come into force in January.
EU Farm Commissioner Mariann Fisher Boel, 66, will not stay on as EU Agriculture Commissioner for another 5 years. It remains unclear as to when the current Commission mandate will end, as this is pending the result of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on Oct 2nd & the final ratification in Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. Although the decision was long suspected, there is no obvious candidate to succeed her. The Former Romanian Farm Minister Dacian Ciolos is the only name formally mentioned in a Member State as a candidate for the post. Elsewhere there are strong rumors that former Ministers of Agriculture Michel Barnier and Wilhelm Molterer are in line to be the next Commissioners from France and Austria respectively. Danish media reports today are citing Farm Minister Eva Kjer Hansen as one of the 3 favourites to be the next Danish Commissioner. Former Dutch Minister Cees Veerman remains also an extremely well-qualified option.
The new regulation for so called animal by-products, applicable as from 2011, is aimed at introducing more risk-proportionate rules on animal by-products, as well as their interaction with other EU legislation. More specifically, it includes the following provisions:
- The current classification scheme of regulation 1774/2002 is maintained. This means that animal by-products of category 1 (injurious to health) and category 2 (unfit for human consumption) must not be placed on the market as food, whereas material of category 3 (which comply with certain rules regarding their possible use for human consumption) may be used for certain feeding purposes;
- The concept of an "end point" in the manufacturing of animal by-products is introduced, after which the processed products are no longer subject to the animal by-products regulation, as some potential risks have been eliminated for example by heat or chemical substances; instead, the general rules on product safety apply. Under the current rules, almost all material from animals which does not enter the food chain, is subject to the rules on animal by-products;
- The distinction between foodstuffs and animal by-products is clarified by confirming that operators need to make an irreversible decision, if products are destined for purposes other than human consumption. This means that once a product has become an animal by-product, it must not re-enter the food chain.
To further information, please click on the attached file
The Finnish fur breeders started a communication campaign for 2 weeks in the main national newspapers. This action is an open-eye on the goal of animal rights organisations: they do not want to abolish only the fur farming but also all the farming of all production animals and products of animal of origin (milk, meat, wool socks, leather shoes...). Unlike the activists are willing to make believe, the European fur farming sector is really concerned about the care of animals and all our farms are compliant with the very high European regulation in terms of animal welfare. Because openness and transparency are important, we work to promote a realistic public image of European fur farming. The Finnish communication campaign is available on the attached pdf file.
Because it is one of the top priorities of the Swedish Presidency, Climate Change will be the main focus of debate for EU Farm Ministers at the Farm Council in Växjö, September 13-15. In addition to discuss the role that EU might play in mitigating Climate Change in agriculture and the effectiveness of present & future CAP instruments (i.e. Rural Development policy options), discussions will also tackle methodologies to reduce agricultural Greenhouse Gas emissions 1) change in agricultural output, with a shift towards other commodities; 2) change in production methods (land use change, manure & fertilizer management etc.); 3) implementation of additional activities aimed at off-setting emissions such as the replacement of fossil energy by renewable sources. More information is available in the 5 page text from the Swedish Presidency that seeks to distinguish between Climate Change "mitigation" & "adaptation". You can read it by clicking on the following link:
EFBA welcomes the ambitious projects launched by the Commission in the area of Animal Welfare. One is in regards with an EU animal welfare label which could come into being like the one that will exist soon for organic farming. To do that, the Commission focuses for now on harmonising conditions for the use of animal welfare claims at a European level while maintaining voluntary labeling practices. Indicators would be devised to guarantee the truthfulness of animal protection information to help consumers make sense of different claims. It appears that "consumers are prepared to pay an extra 5 to 20% for products more respectful of animal welfare". Another interesting project is the willingness of the Commission to create a European reference centre for animal protection and welfare. The main role of this centre would be to ensure uniform implementation of European standards and to promote the exchange of best practices. Its seat could be located in Sweden or Germany.
The EP Plenary session, which took place in Strasbourg last week, formally confirmed the members - and substitutes - of the various EP Committees. Regarding the Committee of the Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI), the reins have been entrusted to the former Italian Minister of Agriculture, Paolo de Castro (S&D). As Committee Chair, he will be assisted in his duties by four vice-presidents: Rares-Lucian Niculescu (EPP, Romania), José Bové (Greens, France), Marit Paulsen (ALDE, Sweden), and Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR, Poland). The political Groups have also agreed on their coordinators who also have a decisive influence on how the Group votes in Committee. On agriculture policy, the group's spokesperson of the EPP is Albert Dess (German) while Luis Capoulas Santos (Portuguese) will be coordinator for the S&D. For the ALDE, George Lyon has taken the responsibility (Scotland). The organic farmer Martin Häusling (German) will be coordinator for the Greens and Latvia's Alfred Rubiks will take on the role for the United Left/GUE group. The situation remains unclear in regards with the 2 new eurosceptic groups - the Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Freedom & Democracy (EFD).
From 14 to 16 July, the first plenary session was held in Strasbourg since the elections on 4-7 June. During this inaugural plenary session, the new president of the European Parliament was elected: Poland's former Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek (EPP). He will preside over the 736 members of the assembly for the first half of the term (two and a half years) while the German Social Democrat Martin Schulz will be president for the second half of the term. During the meeting, the seven parliamentary groups were officially inaugurated: the EPP (centre right, 265 seats); the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (184 seats); the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, 84 seats); the Greens-EFA (Greens-European Free Alliance , 55 seats); the ECR Group (European Conservatives and Reformists Group, 55 seats); the GUE-NGL (the extreme left European United Left-Nordic Green Left, 35 members); the EFD (the extreme right anti-European Independence-Democracy Group, 32 seats). Finally, the NA (Non Attached Group) counts 26 seats. Regarding the election of the head of the European Commission, most members of the EPP would have been happy to confirm Barroso for his second term but they had to bow to the resistance of the Liberals ALDE group and the Socialists and Democrats group (SD). His potential reappointment as President of the EU has been delayed. The final decision on the vote will be reached on 10 September. If the vote of Barroso takes place in September, under the provisions of the Nice Treaty, a simple majority will be required. However, if the vote is postponed until after the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, an absolute majority will be needed (369 votes), which could be harder for Barroso. The Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is planned for 2 October.
The Swedish Presidency of the EU started officially on 1 July for six months. In keeping with the tradition, the full European Commission met, yesterday in Stockholm, the Swedish centre-right government led by Fredrik Reinfeldt to discuss the different priorities. The three major challenges ahead for the Swedish EU Presidency are 1) the Economy and Employment; 2) the Climate; 3) the Institutional Challenge - a new European Parliament following the elections in June as well as a new Commission and the potential Lisbon Treaty ratification which will change the foundation for EU work. In the area of agriculture and fisheries, there will be three priority issues raised by the Swedish Presidency: 1) the Fisheries Policy; 2) the Food and Climate change and 3) the Animal Health and Wellbeing. A meeting, entitled "Agriculture and the environment", of EU agricultural ministers will take place in Växjö, Sweden on 13-15 September. A conference on Animal Health and Welfare will be organised in Uppsala, Sweden, on 8-9 October while a further conference entitled "Foodstuffs adapted to climate change" will be held in Lund, Sweden, on 23-24 November. To further information and on the occasion of its Presidency, Sweden has launched its own website (www.se2009.eu).
All the leaders of the main political groups in the European Parliament are now elected. Joseph Daul (France) is re-elected almost unanimously (98.7%) to lead the European People's Party (EPP, centre-right). The Socialists of the ex-PES group, called from now the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, have also re-elected their former leader: Martin Schulz (Germany). The third group by order of size, the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe (ALDE) has elected the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt as leader replacing Graham Watson (UK). The Greens have also re-elected the Franco-German leader, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, while the EUL-NGL (European United Left-Nordic Green Left) has a new head, Lothar Bisky (Germany). The new anti European group still has to choose its potential leader.
This afternoon, the vote regarding the ban proposal for the fur farming sector, initiated by Krista van Velzen (SP - Socialist Party) and Harm Evert Waalkens (PvdA - Labour Party) took place in the Lower Chamber. First the motion to have an additional report to assess the ten years phasing out period of the fur farming activity in the Netherlands was rejected. Secondly, the ban proposal was adopted by a majority. This means that it will be now handed over to the Upper Chamber most probably after the summer break. EFBA will continue to support its NFE association in its fight against this proposal.
The public register of lobbyists set up on 23rd June 2008 is expected to be revised this summer. The system, based on a voluntary approach, currently includes more than 1,600 listing, primarily organisations (see the registration of EFBA on the news 23 January 2009), but also a few individual lobbyists. The purpose of this revision is to clarify certain points related to disclosure of financial information and complaint mechanisms in case of publication of false information. It will be also more difficult for unregistered lobbyists to seek information or an appointment.
The Council of Agriculture Ministers has reached on Monday 22 a political agreement on the proposal improving welfare of animals at slaughter. The new Regulation EC2008/553 is scheduled to come into force as of January 1, 2013. It aimed at revising the legislation in force - Council Directive 93/119 - on the protection of animals at the time of killing or slaughter in the light of new technical and scientific elements. It also introduces a new approach, mirroring the one followed in food safety field - increasing operator's responsabilities concerning welfare. EFBA welcomes this new proposal and approach as it re-inforces the role of the farmer to continuously improve the welfare of the fur-farmed animals even at the time of euthanasia.
Even if the final results of the European elections 2009 (4-7 June) are not fully available yet, we can already observe the main trends: the European Parliament results show a clear victory for the right and centre-right (EPP: 263-273) and defeat for the Socialists and Social Democrats (PES 155-165 while it obtained 217 seats in 2004). The centrists and the Liberals confirmed their positions as the third strongest block (ALDE Liberals 78-84) and the Greens gained some seats (43 in 2004 and 52-56 seats now) and Others gained significant ground (from 30 in 2004 to 83-89 in 2009). Following this, the European Parliament will have to continue functioning through alliances, project by project, in constant quest for compromise. These elections were also marked by a record rate of abstention of 56.51% due more to ignorance than lack of interest. The citizens do not seem to perceive the impact of their vote on their lives. The newly elected European Parliament now faces major institutional challenges over the next weeks: the nomination of the president of the European Commisssion, the designation of the head of European diplomacy and, once the Lisbon Treaty is finally ratified, the selection of a president to head the European Council.
Yesterday, was the hearing of the Dutch Minister of Agriculture about the fur farming ban proposal (see news 29/05/09) in the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. During this hearing, the Minister gives her full support to the mink breeders. Indeed, 'she much prefers talking about animal welfare rather than a mink-fur production ban without any compensation'. By this way, Gerda Verbrug follows many scientists and veterinarians who have showned and confirmed in their various reports that farmed minks in EU farms are well domesticated and have very good welfare conditions. Even with this positive attitute, the Dutch fur farmers will continue to keep pressure on politicians as the vote is not finalised yet and some political parties are still for the ban (PS - Socialist Party; PvdA - Labour Party).
'For years, our EU farmers work hard to meet the most stringent farming requirements in the world regarding environment protection, animal welfare and the use of pesticides and veterinary drugs. So it would be normal that our farmers deserve a reputation for high quality to sustain their competitiveness' said Commissioner Mariann Fisher Boel on a press conference held on Thursday May 28th. To reach this goal, the EU is willing to help by bringing more coherence and simplicity to the various labelling and certification schemes. By this way, consumers will get accurate information about product characteristics and farming attributes. Following that, here are some communication actions proposed by the Commission to better communicate the added value to the consumers, such as:
- Extend labelling that identifies the place where agricultural product was farmed;
- Examine the feasability of laying down specific optional reserved term for "traditional product". That could replace the current 'traditional specialities guaranted scheme'.
- Improve the single market for products under labelling schemes.
- Improve international protection of geographical indications and contribute to the development of international standards for marketing standards and organic product.
- Develop 'good practice' guidelines for private certification schemes to reduce potential for consumer confusion and to reduce red-tape for farmers.
This communication will be further discussed by Member States with an official statement on the dossier expected at the June Agri Council, June 22-23.
EFBA strongly opposes to the Danish fox production ban which has been endorsed last Friday (29/05/06) by the Danish Parliament. This ban is phasing out the fox production in Denmark within 15 years if the breeder has fox production as main activity and 7 years if it is a sideline. No financial compensations are foreseen. The ground of the ban is based on 'animal ethics considerations concerning the welfare of foxes'. However, no assessment has been made by the Danish Authorities to find a form of production that ensures reasonable welfare conditions to the farm fox as an alternative to this ban. Therefore, the basis of the ban has no solid scientific foundation and is purely judgemental. In this context, EFBA advocates that fur is comparable to meat or wool because civil society adheres to the general principle that man is allowed to keep animals and use material derived from animals provided that animals are treated properly and in a humane manner. Thanks to its highest regulated animal welfare standards, the European Union and its Member States are guaranteeing these conditions to civil society. Danish fox farmers are proud to perpetuate a long heritage of a sustainable activity with responsible practices. They will continue to fight for their future and will launch a legal action together with the Danish Fur Breeders' Association and EFBA.
More than 170 fur farmers are furious and EFBA strongly supports them in their fight against a parliamentary proposal initiated by Krista van Velzen (SP - Socialist Party) and Harm Evert Waalkens (PvdA - Labour Party). Indeed the proposal which is banning fur farming in the Netherlands by 2018 without any financial compensation was further debated in the Second Chamber on Tuesday 26th of May. Dion Graus (PVV - Party for Freedom) who was first against the ban turned for. The Netherlands are going against Europe when we know that Norway has recently given all his support to fur farming and that other European governments help the sector by financing fur farming as rural development. Fur farming is a legal farming activity that brings revenue for many people and families living in areas where jobs are hard to come by. Fur farming in Europe is an important activity with up to 32 million pelts in 2008 and worldwide leader. The Netherlands is the second biggest European mink-fur producer (4.5 million pelts) after Denmark (14 million pelts). European fur farming is a responsible activity and has the strictest rules in the world in terms of animal health and welfare.
On 1 July 2009, Sweden will take over the Presidency of the EU for 6 months. Among all the important EU issues that Sweden wants to move forward, there are 3 main priorities in the Agriculture & Fisheries sectors: 1) Agriculture & Climate Changes; 2) Animal Welfare & Health and 3) Changes to the Common Fisheries Policy (as well as the ongoing pursuit of CAP simplification and transparency, according to the Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson). In the area of Animal Health and Welfare, a conference will take place on October 8-9 in Uppsala, Sweden, to discuss EU animal welfare quality issues, such as indicators to measure animal welfare. Other items on the Swedish agenda might be the new rules on the welfare of laboratory animals and advance debate on the welfare of animals in transport.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), international UN institution, has recently launched a new Internet portal for Farmed Animal Welfare, according to the EU Commission. Launched in close collaboration with international partners in animal welfare , this portal will serve as a single access point for individuals and organisations searching for a wide range of the latest information related to the welfare of farm animals in the world. In line with the Action Plan of the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, the European Commission has actively contributed to the development of the FAO portal which can be accessed to the following link:
The 2009 EFBA's Annual General Meeting took place in Letterkenny, Ireland from 22-24 April. Organised in strong collaboration with our Irish member, the Irish Fur Breeders' Association, we were very delighted to welcome our national members associations in this very nice area. In addition to our members, we had the honour of receiving as special guests Mr Gary Hazlewood, representing the Canadian Fur Breeders' Association, who gave a good overview on the North American Fur Breeding situation and Mr Christian Parmentier, owner of fur shops in Belgium who shared his very good knowledge on the fur trade and trends. We also had the great opportunity to hear Mr Ola Aa Eldoy giving a feedback on the fur situation in China and Mrs Françoise Hossay, Managing Director of EFBA, talking about the running of the European Institutions and its future elections. This Annual General Meeting has been also marked by some changes in the Board of EFBA. We warmly welcome Mr Jasper Jaspers as new Board Member from the Netherlands and Mr Knut Berg, new Board Member from Norway replacing Mr Ola Aa Eldoy who will retire. We cannot tell how thankful we are to the latter for all the good things that he brings to EFBA. We wish him all the best in everything he will undertake! The next Annual General Meeting will take place in Paris, France, beginning of April 2010.
After the annual convention of the Labour party in Norway, we are very pleased that the largest political party of the country has voted in favour of maintaining fur farming, and against a gradual phasing out of fur breeding. The faith of the party in the industry is the result of a non-stop search for the best welfare of the animals, the top farm management and the excellent quality of breeding. However, the fight is not over yet and we will continue pressing other countries to prove that Norway has taken the right decision in regards with the fur sector, a sustainable activity. The fur farming is part of the living agriculture that gives considerable employment, productivity and tax revenue to areas where jobs are hard to come by. The believe of Norway in this traditional industry will help us to meet a rise in worldwide demand on the international market, especially among customers who appreciate a European ethical production that follows the strongest regulation in the world.
The Council conclusions on the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare were adopted on 23 March without discussion. The text encourages the Commission 'to continue to support and initiate further international initiatives to raise awareness and create a greater consensus on animal welfare, including engaging with developing countries to explore trade opportunities based on welfare-friendly production systems' and 'to achieve worldwide acceptance of animal welfare as an issue of common concern and importance'. Commenting on the subject, Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou welcomed the adoption of the declaration. She also pointed out that the Commission 'will continue to work to support and initiate further international initiatives to bring greater consensus on animal welfare - e.g. the forthcoming revision of animal transport legislation.
Following last year's Commission Green Paper on Agriculture Product Quality policy, more than 560 responses to the public consultation were received and summarised. Issues raised in the Green Paper were discussed during a Czech Presidency high-level conference on Agriculture Product Quality in Prague on 12 and 13 March. The main themes of the conference included quality, protected geographical indications, standards and food labelling. It is expected that the Commission will publish a Communication on the Quality Policy in May 2009. This should normally be further discussed under the Czech and Swedish Presidencies with formal legislative proposals in 2010. Regarding the labelling issue, it should be noted that they are different initiatives from elsewhere in the Commission: The Agriculture DG with a 'quality' label under discussion; the Environment DG with an 'Eco-label'; and the Health and Consumers DG with an 'animal welfare' label under discussion. The key challenge will be on how the Commission will integrate all these various labels given the importance of simplification on the whole quality policy issue.
On 23rd January, EFBA has been entered on the European Commission's Register of Interest Representatives. EFBA, originally constituted in 1968, is established in Brussels since last December as an International Non-Profit Association. This legal status allows the development and financing of projects and also the promotion of activities of the liaison committees and working groups. EFBA believes that it is important to be officially registered at the European Commission beacuse it is its mission to represent the interests of the European fur farmers at both European and international institutions. By this registration, EFBA is adhering to the Code of Conduct of the Interest Representatives and to the fact that ' interest representatives are expected to apply the principles of openness, transparency, honesty and integrity'.
EFBA representatives attended the Conference on Global Trade & Farm Animal Welfare in Brussels on January 20-21. Following the 2-days conference, the Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou stated that 'improved animal welfare makes perfect sense, from an ethical point of view and from a socio-economic perspective' and pointed out that at 'international level, we have to think of future developments through new trade opportunities and strategic partnerships'. The conference was organised by DG SANCO and DG Trade in collaboration with a coalition of animal welfare NGO's (WSPA, RSPCA, Eurogroup for Animals, Compassion in World Farming) and gathered some 400 delegates from 60 countries, including multilateral organisations such as OIE, FAO, WTO and World Bank. The Conference is part of several international initiatives wich seek to raise awareness of animal welfare and trade issues globally as foreseen in the Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010.
The Czech Republic is holding since beginning of January the Presidency of the European Union. As it is the tradition, the Presidency has outlined their key priorities for the next 6 months. Regarding agriculture matters, the Presidency will focus on the future debate of the CAP after 2013, agricultural product quality, simplifaction and animal welfare. The regulations on protection of animals at slaugther & killing and on animal by-products not intended for human consumption are expected to be adopted before the end of the Presidency. A proposal for animal transport travelling times & space allowances is also expected later this spring as well a general declaration on animal welfare.