New German agri minister stresses forest protection at first EU meeting

On Twitter, the agriculture Commissioner welcomed “strong support” from Germany’s new government for the ambitions of the new CAP, saying he shared “many views” with the minister. [BMEL/Mewes]

During his first Agrifish EU council, new German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir presented himself as an advocate of climate protection and animal welfare as the ministers discussed measures against deforestation.

“The active destruction of forests is a catastrophe and speeds up the climate crisis dramatically”, the Green politician, who had been sworn in as minister a week earlier, said on the sidelines of Monday’s (13 December) meeting.

In the monthly gathering, the EU-27 agriculture ministers discussed a regulation meant to fight deforestation, which the European Commission had proposed in November. Özdemir came out strongly in favour of the EU executive’s proposal, saying it aligned with the interests of the new government coalition in Berlin.

“We cannot restrict ourselves to pushing forest protection within Germany, we have to do it globally if we want to have a chance of combatting the climate crisis,” he said.

The Commission proposal aims to cut back on the consumption of products linked to deforestation by making the import of certain products, including agricultural commodities, conditional on avoiding deforestation throughout the supply chain.

Özdemir was happy that the proposed regulation “rightfully makes a connection between global deforestation on the one hand and the consumption of agricultural commodities on the other”.

At the same time, he stressed that a guarantee that existing forests would be preserved should be a precondition for any international trade deal the EU strikes, including for example the MERCOSUR agreement with South American countries.

First dates in Brussels

The trip to Brussels for the meeting of EU agricultural ministers was Özdemir’s first trip in office – a sign of “the significance that Europe has for this policy area that I have been entrusted with”, he said.

During his stay, he also had first meetings with Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, as well as his French counterparts Julien Denormandie and Annick Girardin, who will take over the presidency of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council from January onwards.

According to Wojciechowski, he and Özdemir discussed what the new German coalition agreement has in store for agriculture, as well as the country’s national strategic plan for the implementation of the EU’s reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

On Twitter, the Commissioner welcomed “strong support” from Germany’s new government for the ambitions of the new CAP, saying he shared “many views” with the minister.

Özdemir also stressed the significance of European cooperation in order to make food production more resilient to crises such as the COVIDd-19 pandemic.

German Greens’ pick for agri minister is a prominent pragmatist, but farming newbie

Germany’s designated agriculture minister, Cem Özdemir, has no previous experience to show in the field. But, as long-term Green party chief, he says he has learned how to “build bridges”, and as a former MEP, he is no stranger to European politics.

“It is precisely in times of crisis that we need to act in an especially European way,” Özdemir said, adding that the EU had shown “teamwork and steadfastness” when supply chains were threatened by the Coronavirus outbreak.

During their meeting, the ministers adopted an emergency response plan to ensure food supply in times of crisis. Özdemir welcomed the decision, saying that the plan “institutionalises close cooperation” in emergency situations.

Apart from European cooperation, the new Green minister also made a point of presenting himself as a champion of animal welfare. “If one claims the right to use animals, one also has the obligation to protect them in the best possible way,” he said.

Özdemir pointed to his inaugural statement, where he had vowed to be Germany’s “chief animal welfare advocate”. At the same time, during the inauguration ceremony in Berlin, he had also pronounced himself an advocate of farmers.

To juggle both aspects, EU-level action would be key, Özdemir said in a statement on Monday’s council. “The political framework for this is often set in Brussels,” he said, adding that Germany’s goal would be to lead the way at the EU level and reconcile different interests.

France to strongly back Commission's deforestation proposal during EU presidency

France will back the European Commission in fighting deforestation and defending a “high” level of ambition when it takes on the French EU Council Presidency in January for six months, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie told EU agriculture ministers on 13 December.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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