23 May 2017
INFORMAL AGRICULTURE MINISTERS MEETING 22-23 MAYBrussels Daily
Press Conference Informal Meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Malta
Thanks to Minister Galdes, and Commissioner Hogan.
This has been a very fruitful Council, and on the issue of water, a very foreword looking one.
All societies depend on water, and one of the biggest factors affecting the supply of water is agriculture.
On a global level, the Sustainable Development Goals make this clear. Sustainable water management (SDG6) and sustainable agriculture (SDG2) are both primary goals, and neither can be achieved independently of the other.
At the 2017 G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Declaration a similar message was forthcoming.
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to policies which boost agricultural productivity while ensuring that water and water-related ecosystems are protected, managed and used sustainably.
This is just as true the European level.
And that is why both myself and Commissioner Hogan are so happy to share this platform.
On the issue of Water and Agriculture, there is a concerted effort in the European Commission to bridge policy silos and to work together – with Member States.
And this effort is in evidence across the Commission.
Our document “Agriculture and Sustainable Water Management in the EU“, which came out in the first week of May shows this.
Thanks to contributions from our fellow Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis on pesticides, Tibor Navracsics on knowledge and Carlos Moedas on research and innovation, it reflects the realities of the challenges we face.
The goal is to be sustainable, by which I mean agriculture that can continue to grow, while securing good water status as defined by the Water Framework Directive at the same time.
This was made clear from the recent Environment Implementation Review. It showed how additional efforts are needed across the EU to tackle diffuse pollution and abstraction.
Going forward, what we need is a commitment to well-planned green infrastructure. In particular, Member States could make more use of natural water retention measures. Establishing wetlands, buffers and afforestation of agricultural land can protect groundwater sources and store excess rainwater.
Doing so boosts flood protection, and gives drought mitigation.
Rural Development Programmes have a role.
Jointly, we have the impression that we have encouraged Ministers to engage with and prioritise this work at home – implementation happens in the Member States – the Commission is there to help, but without their engagement it will not work.
Working in this coordinated fashion will allow EU agriculture to transition towards a model based more on agro-ecological principles.
It will allow the CAP objectives for water to be aligned with the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
Water is the focus of this meeting, but based on the warm reception and good discussion, perhaps in future meetings we can develop the conversation into further areas.
Thanks again to Minister Galdes, and to Commissioner Hogan.