The Croatian Presidency organized a videoconference of EU ministers responsible for agriculture and fisheries with the participation of EU Commissioners Janusz Wojciechowski and Virginijus Sinkevičius, to discuss measures already taken, as well as those planned at the national and European level in order to counteract the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture and fisheries sector.
Croatian Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković convened a video conference with the aim of information sharing between the Member States and EU institutions. In times like this, ensuring food security is one of the most important issues for 500 million European citizens. Therefore, food security, availability and food production were amongst the most important topics discussed.
“In order to ensure normal functioning of the food supply chain, it is crucial to identify critical obstacles caused by covid-19 pandemic. We managed to identify it today. Main issues pointed out by most Member States were restrictions in movement of goods, changes in consumption patterns and in the operation of agri-food production systems, as well as insufficient workforce due to border closures, social distance requirements, mandatory isolation or quarantine. After today's exchange, we have a clearer idea of the situation.”Marija Vučković, Minister of Agriculture
In response to the difficulties we are facing, the Commission reffered to the Corona Response Investment Initiative to quickly direct €37 billion of European public investment to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Regarding state aid, maximum amounts were raised, up to EUR 120 000 per undertaking active in the fishery and aquaculture sector or EUR 100 000 per undertaking active in the primary production of agricultural products. For companies active in the processing and marketing of agricultural products, the threshold is set at EUR 800 000. In addition, the Commission has announced an extension by 1 month of the deadline to submit the single application for direct payments and other area- and animal-related measures in 2020.
However, it is clear that additional specific and targeted measures are needed to support the agricultural and fisheries sector of the EU, responding to specific country needs. Moreover, Ministers and the Commission confirmed their willingness to explore further measures for the support of our producers. Presidency will use today's exchange as the basis for the future work in weeks to come.
Ministers pointed out that sufficient food has been and will be available for European consumers. Measures already proposed by the European Commission in all sectors including transport and introducing “green lanes” for food supply, health and social security together with flexibility regarding state aid are helping to overcome this situation.
Member States proposed additional measures as a possible response to the Coronavirus crisis in agriculture and fisheries including the simplification of or derogation from certain procedures, for instance in relation to on-the-spot controls, modification of rural development programmes, reporting or fulfilment of obligations undertaken by beneficiaries. Increased flexibility in implementation of CAP measures and in transfering of approved funds between measures and programmes was proposed, as well as facilitating advance payments, and activation of intervention and crisis measures foreseen in the Common Market Organisation Regulation.
On fisheries Member States proposed more flexibility under the EMFF, simplifying reprogramming procedures and relaxing current ceilings. Allowing compensation for temporary cessation of fishing activities without the current restrictions and allowing storage aid was also raised.
“The Ministers today called upon the Commission to closely monitor and defend the integrity of the single market and to propose appropriate action where problems in the supply chain are identified. We need a few days to summarise the outcome of this meeting, and together with the European Commission, we will evaluate and decide on further steps to be taken. Our task is to keep the European way of life alive, to keep our citizens protected, fed and employed.”
Marija Vučković, Minister of Agriculture