The work of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union achieves the approval of a document of conclusions that advocates the implementation of a European rural strategy with a comprehensive approach.
The Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union, held in Brussels, today gave the green light to the conclusions document on the long-term vision for rural areas, which calls for the implementation of initiatives to promote the development of these areas and the improvement of the living conditions of its inhabitants, with greater financial support, beyond the funds of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
In the document, the ministers invite the European Commission to draw up a European rural strategy with a comprehensive approach and that gives coherence to all initiatives aimed at rural areas so that there is synergy between them and greater efficiency in the use of funding for the development of rural areas.
The text proposes to set up a monitoring tool to evaluate and quantify the contribution of European policies and instruments in favor of rural areas and to establish, at the beginning of each programming period, a procedure to ensure consistency, complementarity and synergies in the use of these funds.
It is expected that in the spring of 2024, the European Commission will issue a communication analyzing the degree of progress of the Union’s rural action plan and will reflect on the issues to be considered in the next programming period of European funds.
The approval of this document is a success of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU, which has worked to make visible the challenges facing European rural areas and highlight the opportunities they offer to contribute to the social and territorial cohesion of society as a whole.
With this purpose, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) and the European Commission organized last September in Sigüenza (Guadalajara) a high-level forum on the future of rural areas in which more than 250 representatives of administrations, entities and associations from different Member States participated. Some of the conclusions of that meeting have been incorporated into the document approved today.
The document includes recommendations and strategic guidelines on future prospects for policies to support rural areas. Among the conclusions, it recognizes the importance of agricultural activity, which plays a key role in the social, territorial and economic cohesion of these areas. In this regard, the need to maintain support for generational replacement and encourage the incorporation of women into agricultural activities is highlighted.
In the context of the current geopolitical situation, these conclusions also highlight the importance of guaranteeing food security within the Open Strategic Autonomy, as agreed by the Heads of State and Government at the informal meeting of the European Council held in October in Granada.
The conclusions make a firm commitment to the participation of rural local communities and their organizations in the design of development strategies and highlight the key role played by the Local Action Groups of the LEADER initiative and participatory local development initiatives.
Similarly, the document adopted by the Council recognizes the need to promote digital innovation, data infrastructures and the acquisition of technological capabilities. In this context, it stresses the importance of advancing investments to improve connectivity in rural areas.
These conclusions seek to promote a balanced territorial development for rural areas, taking as a reference the EU Territorial Agenda 2030, and highlight the potential of rural territories to promote economic diversification through new initiatives and projects in the industrial, digital and service sectors, in which SMEs and cooperatives play an important role.
The capacities of rural areas to adapt to climate change are also highlighted.
New genomic techniques
At today’s Council meeting, the Presidency provided information on the status of work on the New Genomic Techniques proposal, a priority issue for the Spanish Presidency. In particular, the Ministers were informed about the technical work carried out in the competent Council working group and highlighted the good progress made in the examination of the proposal and the intention to continue with the objective of reaching an agreement on the Council’s position. Under this item, the Croatian delegation provided information to the Council on this issue.
Other issues discussed included the European Forestry Strategy 2030, on the implementation of which the Commission provided an update. The Austrian delegation then provided information on the informal meeting of the Ministers of the “For Forest” group. The German delegation briefed the ministers on the importance of the strategic frameworks for cooperation with partner countries on the implementation of the regulation on deforestation.
The Italian delegation briefed the Council on the role of farmers in dynamic and sustainable rural areas, and the French delegation on the partial implementation of GAEC 8 in the 2024 campaign.
The Council authorized the Commission to sign the COP 28 Leaders’ Statement on “Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action” on behalf of the EU during the World Summit on Climate Action.
Regarding fishing items, the Commission has presented the proposals for Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for 2024 in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which represents the official start of talks with the aim of reaching a political agreement in December. The Council at which these allocations are to be approved will be held on December 10, 11 and 12.
The Council welcomed the change in negotiating dynamics proposed by Spain, which means more time for technical dialogue and consultation. All decisions must be based on the three pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): biological, economic and social.
Today’s Council was chaired by the Belgian Ministers of Agriculture, David Clerinval, and Fisheries, Hilde Crevits, an exceptional circumstance due to the formation of the new government in Spain, and decided in accordance with the Council’s rules. Today’s meeting is part of the calendar of the Spanish Presidency, which concludes at the end of the year, and in which a final meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council is scheduled for December. Spain was represented by the Secretaries General of Agriculture and Food, Fernando Miranda, and Fisheries, Isabel Artime.