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Sugar market study.The extension of the existing sugar market regime came with one major qualification, though. The Commission will carry out a major study on the sugar market regime and will present its findings in early 2003 along with some proposals for reform. The outgoing Italian Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio announced the whole compromise as a major victory for Italy but warned that these five extra years should be used "beneficially" in order to prepare for fundamental reform.Veterinary update.During the Council, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne updated Ministers on the state of play in the BSE and foot-and-mouth disease crises. Mr Byrne signalled the Commission's intention to put forward a proposal to the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) to lower the age limit of livestock tested for BSE from 30 to 24 months for cattle considered at risk. The 'at risk' category includes dead-on-farm animals, emergency slaughtered animals, animals sent for normal slaughter but found sick at ante mortem inspection. Germany is already testing at this lower age limit and France would like to do so. The two countries would like to see the age limit lowered for all cattle.The Commissioner also presented to the assembled Farm Ministers the latest results of BSE testing. The results show that the likelihood of positive cases is greater when examining specific target populations, such as dead-on-farm animals and casualty slaughters. The number of cases found through examination of clinical suspect cases is also very significant.Mr Byrne also said he would like to see testing for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies extended to small ruminants, notably sheep. This testing, he said, would concentrate on two target groups: healthy slaughtered animals and dead-on-farm animals. The Commissioner emphasised that results from these tests will help to improve current knowledge on the true extent of TSEs in small ruminants. More generally, Commissioner Byrne outlined the "comprehensive framework" of the proposed TSE Regulation. He signalled that he would be proposing further control measures to the SVC, such as the prolongation of the existing suspension on meat and bone meal and a review of the current epidemiological situation and EU approach to the eradication of BSE.Turning to foot-and-mouth disease, the Commissioner declared that there has been "huge progress" in stamping it out. But he warned, too, of the costs that the disease had incurred. Almost 3 million animals have had to be slaughtered to bring the disease under control, adding "considerable extra costs" to the EU Budget since it co-finances compensation. Mr Byrne indicated that potential costs in the UK could range from Euro 500-700 million. The budgetary allocation for emergency veterinary costs for 2001 was only Euro 41 million. "Clearly, these potential extra costs will stretch an already over-stretched budget on farm spending", he said. Mr Byrne then turned his attention to non-EU country export bans, declaring: "We are entering the tail of the epizootic. In particular at this stage we should strengthen our efforts to convince third countries to relax or lift their trade restrictions."Animal lovers.On the morning of May 22, the Agriculture Ministers engaged in the next best thing after baby-kissing - declaring their love for animals. A public debate on animal welfare took up most of the morning and seemed to produce little apart from some rather thin Conclusions. The Ministers declared that animals "have feelings" and "an intrinsic value" and that "animal ethics" should "form an important part of the basis for decision when drawing up the future policy on agriculture and food". The discussion on animals as "sentient beings" could be seen as particularly insensitive given the recent slaughter and destruction of nearly 3 million animals during the FMD crisis. The Council also signalled its intention to come back to the issue of animal transport - a particular concern of the German Agriculture Minister Renate K?nast. Also on May 22, the Eurogroup for Animal Welfare launched its action plan entitled 'Time for Change', asking the Commission and Agriculture Ministers to concentrate their attention in particular on:- improving the Directive on the welfare of pigs;- limiting the transport of farm animals;- recognising and including animal protection as a basic principle in the European Treaty.Other debates.The Council also noted the progress report from the Committee of Member States' Permanent Representatives to the EU (COREPER) on the state of play of discussions on the proposals on food hygiene. The hygiene proposals cover all food production 'from farm to fork' and form part of the EU's work on food safety. The proposals put forward by the Commission are far-reaching and a decision is not expected on them until 2002.Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler also presented his proposal to reform the EU's sheep and goatmeat regime introducing a fixed premium for farmers rather than the variable deficiency payment used to date. The proposals will now be sent on to the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee.Another proposal of Mr Fischler's, for reforming the regulatory instrument for olive oil, also came up for discussion. The Commission has proposed a two-year extension of the current production aid system while a number of producing countries prefer a five-year extension. The Council instructed the Special Committee on Agriculture to come up with a dossier for further discussion on olive oil at the June 19-20 Council.At the request of the Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese delegations, the Agriculture Ministers also discussed the nut sector. The nut-growing countries feel that nut production needs continued aid. The Commission promised to investigate the situation in this sector further. Ministers also turned their attention to the distillation of certain wine sector products. The Council decided unanimously to give Portugal permission to pay out national aid for the distillation of 450,000 hectolitres of wine to a maximum value of Euro 0.574 per % volume per hectolitre. Portugal intends to supplement the compensation with national aid.Finally, the German delegation drew the Council's attention to the need for a rapid adoption of a new draft Directive on compound feed that will oblige producers to outline precisely the ingredients used and indicate amounts.A points.Among the items approved without debate were the following:- Council Conclusions on the first session of the United Nations Forum on Forestry in June- Regulation authorising the offer and delivery for direct human consumption of certain imported wines (particularly from the United States) which may have undergone oenological processes not provided for in Regulation EC/1793/99- Regulation adjusting the system of aid for cotton following the accession of Greece and a Regulation on production aid for cotton- Regulation establishing a derogation from land set-aside rules for fodder legumes on organic farms- Regulation prohibiting imports of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) originating in Belize, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Honduras- Regulation laying down the general rules and conditions governing the implementation by the Community of the catch documentation scheme for Dissostichus spp which has been adopted by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:May 24, 2001

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