OPP Meeting Summary: EP ENVI Committee – Exchange of views with Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (22 July 2019)

A summary of the exchange of views is now available.

EP ENVI Committee Meeting – 22 July 2019
Exchange of views with Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry made the following introductory remarks:

  • the Parliament’s role, as the representative of all EU citizens, was the very important one – the Parliament indeed was a defender of all European common values;
  • the hearing therefore, was an important opportunity to have an Exchange of Views between different institutions and Mr Leppä was really pleased to be able to talk about the policies and priorities of the Finnish Presidency and to reply to any question the European Parliament (EP) might have;
  • the ENVI committee played an important role and Mr Leppä would follow their future work with interest;
  • the priorities during the current Presidency included the fight against climate change, the promotion of the EU’s common fundamental values and the rule of law, the strengthening of the security and of a social and coherent Union – thus, they had large legislative files to deal with in the following months;
  • they sought to find a solution to the Multi Financial Framework (MFF) which was one of the most important files discussed during their Presidency;
  • they would also try to reach an agreement on the long-term climate strategy for the EU;
  • he considered important that the EU acted with determination to reach the Paris goals, so that global warming could be restricted at 1.5 degrees. In the EU this meant that the zero net emissions by 2050 needed to be achieved;
  • during their Presidency, they would also work on slowing down the bio-diversity loss;
  • it was very important that the EU and its Member States (MS) continue their active commitment to the preparation process of the post 2020 international bio diversity framework;
  • in the Agricultural and Fisheries Council, the central theme would be the CAP reform and they would strive to make as much progress as possible to reach the common position in the Council;
  • the CAP reform is also closely connected to the progress in the MFF negotiations;
  • in addition, the informal AGRI Meeting in Helsinki in September 2019 would focus on the issue of soil carbon sequestration in farming – that was an important theme and it represented the way farmers could contribute to the climate action;
  • as for fisheries, they sought to achieve the general approach on some parts of the proposal on European Maritime Fisheries Fund;
  • during the fall, they would take positions on the total allowed catches for the next year;
  • their activities would be guided by the principles of openness, good governance and sustainable meeting practices. In this regard, they would try to offset the emissions of flying to meetings. The amount for offsetting emissions is half a million euros worth and they would use that money to fund the compensation projects in Honduras, Vietnam, Uganda and Laos;
  • it was important to recognise that modern problems are cross-sectoral and therefore too narrow sector-specific solutions might lead to difficult consequences in different sectors. For that reason, tackling those problems needed inter-institutional collaboration – also the agricultural and fisheries policies had to be in line with different policies;
  • the priorities which felt under the ENVI committee competences and on which they would like to make progress during their Presidency are the following:
    • CAP reform,
    • forests and,
    • Mercosur;
  • on CAP reform,  they sought to make as much progress as possible and they would try to form the general agreement in the Council;
  • he was very pleased to see that MS had shown in the Council that they were committed to higher ambitions in climate and environmental questions;
  • health, environment, climate and sustainable management of natural resources were prerequisite for life and were also vital for agricultural production;
  • the new architecture model would increase obligatory environmental measures and in addition to this, it would give to the MS the possibility to draw up national environmental measures under the first and second pillars;
  • negotiations however, were still ongoing and they would ensure that the new green architecture would take into account MS and regions’ different needs and conditions. Funding and objective needed to be balanced;
  • on foreststhe Minister wanted to draw the attention on the issue of global deforestation which was progressing at an alarming speed;
  • he stated that the EU needed to see the bigger picture, because the sustainable solutions required all sectors to be observed. To prevent the deforestation and to promote the forestation, the EU needed sustainable forest management and forest protection;
  • during their Presidency, they were ready to promote the implementation of measures to prevent deforestation and they were awaiting the Communication from the Commission on that issue;
  • the political agreement on the trade deal between the EU and Mercosur was reached – that was a very significant trade agreement, but the complications of the agreement raised concerns regarding both agricultural products and sustainability issues;
  • Mr Leppä considered important that the Mercosur agreement contained the chapter on sustainable development and also the precautionary principle were included in the agreement;
  • they needed to be sure that when the agreement was implemented, the principles of sustainable development were observed and that agreed trade conditions satisfy all parties;
  • in Mercosur, just like in any other international agreement, the safety clauses were there to guarantee to customers the trust in food safety;
  • the AGRI Council heard the Commissions’ communication on long-distance animal transport, especially during hot summer period;
  • live animals are transported outside the EU, often on high temperatures which were above acceptable limits in too tight and too loaded containers;
  • such conditions did not meet the requirements and the Presidency would take those problems very seriously;
  • on consumer protection, the consumers should have certainty that the whole production chain was a responsible one and that animal wellbeing was observed thought the chain;
  • antimicrobial bio resistance (AMR) was an extremely serious global threat to human and animal health, as well as for food safety and the environment – in this regard, he thanked the Parliament for the active work against AMR;
  • the EU recently adopted the Regulation on veterinary medicinal products which prohibited the use of antibiotics as growth promoters or their use for mass medication;
  • the need for and the use of antibiotics could be effectively reduced by investing in animal wellbeing – their use needed to be well grounded and controlled;
  • Mr Leppä was pleased to see that cooperation under the theme of health was functioning and fruitful;
  • fighting the AMR required global cooperation and it was important for the EU to be on the frontline and show the direction in different international fora;
  • given those multifaceted problems he mentioned, the core task was to ensure the food securit;
  • the Minister concluded by saying that he hoped that during the Finnish Presidency the EU could make progress on priorities on their agenda which were important for all the Eurean citizens.

Group representatives

Jessica Polfjärd (EPP, SE) 

  • both Finland and Sweden had a long history of sustainable and active forest management – she was sure that they were both proud of that and that they had a shared understanding that the active forest management  helped them in achieving the climate goals;
  • there was no doubt that forests were very important for the climate and that by replacing products using coal and oil with products using wood from sustainable forests, the EU would move towards a bio economy that would lower the emissions;
  • she would therefore like to ask what the Presidency would do to safeguard the national competences on forestry and how would they promote the sustainable industry;
  • she concluded by saying that she hoped in a beneficial cooperation.

Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK)

  • on behalf of S&D she thanked the Presidency for prioritising the climate and the sustainability;
  • during the last EP term, the committee focused on transparency for the approval procedure on pesticides use in agriculture and she wanted to know whether the Finnish Presidency recognised that there was the lack of independency in the way the EP approved pesticides in the EU;
  • if the Presidency agreed with that, would it be prepared to ensure that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and other agencies have more funding so that they could carry out their own studies;
  • on forestry, she thought that the sustainable forestry was part of the solution to the way they dealt with climate change, but she wanted to know what would the Presidency do to ensure that the MS comply with the rules they already adopted;
  • in this regard, she mentioned the fact that there were countries which introduce illegal lumber in the EU.

Nils Torvalds (RE, FI)

  • Mr Torvalds wanted to know what concretely would Finland do about the storing/sequestrating carbon in the agriculture, as it was one of the main themes in the CAP reform.
  • also, he commented that the Finnish minister did not say anything about cod ban which just entered into force in Finland.

Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA, FR)

  • he mentioned the Commission communication on deforestation, which could include a paragraph on imported deforestation;
  • in that regard, he reiterated the fact that thousands of hectares disappeared every year because of cultivation of cocoa, palm oil and soya beef which caused deforestation;
  • he therefore wanted to know if the Finnish Presidency was in favour of introducing into European legislation something binding for the strategies of companies and their behaviour, when it comes to whether or not they participate in deforestation;
  • on Mercosur, he stated that there was a paragraph on sustainable development but it was not useful as it did not include sanctions;
  • in Brazil, the deforestation has had an acceleration with the new President Bolsonaro whose policies on sustainability are completely opposite to what was written in Mercosur;
  • he concluded by asking what the Finnish Presidency would do in this regard.

Teuvo Hakkarainen (ID, FI)

  • in central Finland almost all forests have been slashed and burned, but biodiversity has been maintained and forests have grown again;
  • forestry and forest industry are a really important matter in Finland – there was a sufficient know-how and good technology and it was a self-sustained industry, not dependent on imports as other branches of industry, such as the metal one;
  • at the moment, the forest use was at its maximum level – about 70 million cubicles of wood per year. Nonetheless, it amounted only for about 70% of the annual forestry growth;
  • for forest industry, it was a question of life and death that forest would not be used just as a place for emissions’ storage.

Anna Zalewska (ECR, PL)

  • the budget still needed to be negotiated and she wanted to know if the Council would try to obtain more financial means for the CAP;
  • she also asked how the Council would fight inequalities and cut the red tape, when it comes to European funds to agriculture;
  • on Mercosur, she was worried about food safety – EU had very tough food safety standards and Mercosur was lagging far behind. She therefore wanted to know what would be the next steps in ensuring the food safety, now that the agreement has been signed.

Silvia Modig (GUE/NGL, FI)

  • she was really pleased that Finland had raised the issue climate change and recognised it as the priority of the Presidency;
  • she believed that the issue of sustainable agriculture had not been debated enough – it was important to strengthen carbon sinks, and the agriculture offered a huge opportunity to sequestrate carbon;
  • she therefore wanted to know what concrete proposals the Presidency had and how would the agriculture become more sustainable in the CAP reform;
  • she concluded by asking how the EU could stop the deterioration of biological biodiversity.

Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry gave the following responses:

  • when it comes to forestry, the most important issue was the sustainability of forests, which included the good forest management – it was important that the forests grow more than they were used;
  • Mr Leppä stated that he owned forests and was a farmer. His family has been working for 480 years in the field of agriculture and forestry and they always believed that it was important to take care of the environment;
  • on how to oblige the trade partners to respect the sustainability measures, he stated that Finland had always believed in a rule-based cooperation, which would be also the guiding principle during its Presidency;
  • on industry, he stated that the part of the industry would be based on bio economy and would have to adopt new technologies and make new investments – these investments meant that industry could produce in an environmentally friendly way and that they would replace fossils with new materials;
  • Europe should ensure that this happened also when it comes to international trade;
  • on MFF, it was clear that their higher climate and environmental ambitions meant that they needed more money funding – so they needed to cooperate with the Commission;
  • the Commission communication on CAP reform was really good and would help them to achieve new goals, but it would also help them to simplify many things;
  • the role of agriculture in the global system was huge – its most important task was to produce food, but the food had to be produced sustainably so that the bio diversity could be maintained – that process needed to be balanced, which meant that they needed new technologies and scientific research;
  • soil carbon sequestration was also really important and it was also important to do more research – they knew more what was happening on the surface on the soil and they didn’t know enough what was happening in the soil;
  • on fisheries, the Presidency would act on scientific advise – they wanted sustainable fisheries stock;
  • on Mercosur, Mr Leppä stated that it was a challenging agreement – each MS would carry out own evaluations on how this agreement would effect their agriculture – that processes would take some time, so there were many question marks;
  • they wanted to cooperate with the Commission and the EP and go though all the questions carefully and take decisions – but he understood the EP worries;
  • CAP contained many tools to take care of bio diversity and there were many indicators that would help the MS to follow that;
  • on green architecture, it was closely linked to CAP reform and they had very long and good discussions in their first AGRI Council, which gave them possibility to make the necessary reforms;
  • through the second pillar, in Finland they introduced strong incentives and in that way they had 90% of farmers committed to those solutions and they needed tailor-made solutions to reach the goals – one of their priorities was to take into account local challenges and conditions;
  • on pesticides and the authorisation process, he stated that EFSA was their primary tool. EFSA had enough funding for the risk evaluation work which was the basis for the risk management decisions – as Presidency, they wanted to make sure that EFSA would have what it needed to do its very important scientific work.

Other interventions

Alexander Bernhuber (EPP, AT)

  • regarding the protection of biodiversity, he wanted to know more on the Habitats Directive – in the recent years there had been some problems with some species, mainly with fishes and wolfs;
  • wolfs for instance amounted to several thousands in Europe – and that affected the farming in the Alpine region;
  • he wanted to know if there was any possibility to amend the Habitats Directive during the Finnish Presidency.

Günther Sidl (S&D, AT)

  • the Austrian Parliament decided that the glyphosate would be banned from 1 January 2020;
  • he wanted to know if further measures on environmental poisons would be done and what the Presidency would do to find the alternatives to conventional pesticides.

Martin Hojsík (RE, SK)

  • he wanted to know more about the greenhouse emissions coming from the farming;
  • he wondered if there was any specific issue in the CAP reform dealing with the animal welfare that the Finnish Presidency would look at;
  • on sustainable forestry, he stated that the challenge was not only abroad, but in the EU and his own country;
  • he wanted to know if the Presidency had any ideas on how to better implement and enforce the protection of Natura 2000 areas;

Christina Schneider (EPP, DE)

  • what kind of common approach could they find when it comes to CAP;
  • she agreed that the bio diversity could only be maintained if they cooperated with farmers and land managers;
  • she asked for some specific details about the Council position on the conference next year in China;
  • on Mercosur, under the chapter on health and how the EU standards would be maintained and how the EU would do the checks to ensure that the countries apply those standards.

César Luena (S&D, ES)

  • on the MFF, he stated that the funds for the CAP should not be reduced and said he hoped to hear Mr Leppä defending the CAP funding in the Council meetings;
  • secondly, he wanted to know some examples of concrete measures to guarantee and develop the contribution of the agriculture in the fight against climate change;
  • he also wanted to know if the geographical indications would be protected in the Mercosur agreement.

Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE)

  • he believed that the CAP reform was not an ambitious one – the environmental measures in the new CAP were voluntary, so he wanted to know how they would be useful to combat the biodiversity loss;
  • he also thought that more funds should be allocated to the second pillar of the CAP, as well as to the organic farming.

Maria Spyraki (EPP, EL)

  • she stated that there was to need to address the issue of additional funding in the CAP reform;
  • she asked how many of European farmers would really take the advantage of those loans and what was the plan on skilling and up-skilling of the farmers;
  • lastly, she asked if the Council had any plans on how to adopt these measures on the national level.

Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry gave the following responses:

  • he stated that they were some questions falling under the portfolio of other ministers, as for instance those on the Habitats Directive and the protection of Natura 2000 areas, to which the minister of Environment could answer;
  • he agreed that the EU needed alternatives to pesticides and it had to develop new pesticides policies and develop technologies that permit an agriculture where pesticides were not needed;
  • specifically on glyphosate the Minister stated that the problem is not that they used pesticides, but how the pesticides were used;
  • on animal welfare, it was a big theme, no matter if the issue was the transportation of animals, the sustainable raising of animals or Mercosur, the animals should be respected and their welfare too;
  • he believed that the CAP was an ambitious policy, but he agreed that the EU shouldn’t reduce the fundings, as the funding and ambitions needed to go hand by hand;
  • he assured that he would defend the funding of the agricultural policy in Council meetings;
  • it was important to have different sources of funding and to increase the skills of farmers as well;
  • he concluded by stating that investing in skills, research and innovation was very important.

Other interventions – part 2

Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR)

  • he was worried about the impact of the cuts of CAP fundings;
  • he had the impression that the EP recommendations were simply not taken into account;
  • he asked if the Presidency were revisiting the existing model of CAP or not.

María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (RE, ES)

  • she believed that the CAP reform was an ambitious one, but she was concerned that the flexibility given to the MS in terms of national strategic plans could ultimately lead to the re-nationalisation of agricultural policy;
  • another concern involved the gender balance in agriculture and the social aspects of it, so he wanted to know what was the Presidency’s view on that.

Aurelia Beigneux (ID, FR)

  • she stated that the consumers were asking for more local dimension mainly in terms of traceability and safety;
  • she mentioned CETA, which according to her allowed the import of Canadian products containing substances prohibited in the EU;
  • concerning glyphosate, she stated that the EU needed to find alternatives which do not penalise farmers, are not recommended by the lobbyists and are not carcinogenic;
  • she wanted to know if the Presidency would encourage those countries who undergo that way.

Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL)

  • millions of animal were being transported even when the temperature exceeded 40 degrees;
  • she asked if the Presidency would agree to discuss with the Romanian colleagues and ask the Commission to open an infringement procedure in that regard.

Anna Zalewska (ECR, PL)

  • on forestry and renewable energy it was important to remember that they had to prevent the situation which happened in one big MS were they had enormous deforestation going on in order to install wind farms;
  • therefore, she asked how to protect forests when there situation like those.

Eleonora Evi (NI, IT)

  • more that 30000 people were dying because of AMR and the projections on future were very worrying;
  • they had to shut the door to intensive farming and the use of antibiotics;
  • intensive farming caused also greenhouse emissions and lead to the loss of bio diversity;
  • she asked what could the Presidency do to move from this model to a more sustainable one.

Mr Jari Leppä, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry gave the following responses:

  • the Minister welcomed the fact that there were may questions on the MFF and funding of CAP;
  • cohesion was essential to them and the funding was really important to all agricultural ministers, but the final decisions would be eventually made by the heads of state and governments;
  • the flexibility in CAP would allow for some actions on national and regional levels suitable to local conditions – that however, did not mean to re-nationalise the common rules;
  • on the animal welfare and long transport of live animals, he stated that it was a major problem – consumers must be reassured and must know that the animal conditions are respected in the whole production chain. Finland would monitor the situation also in third countries;
  • European food is of high quality and they were monitoring the food standards coming form other countries under the precautionary principle;
  • he concluded by saying that many important issues needed also the international cooperation.

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the EU institutions serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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