The European Commission has today agreed on a far-reaching package of
proposals that will deliver the European Council's commitments to fight
climate change and promote renewable energy.
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Today's proposal also sets a minimum target of 10% for use of biofuels
in transport in the EU to be reached by 2020. This target has been set at
the same level for each Member State in order to ensure consistency in
transport fuel specifications and availability. Member States which do not
have the relevant resources to produce biofuels will easily be able to
obtain renewable transport fuels from elsewhere. While it would technically
be possible for the European Union to meet its biofuel needs solely from
domestic production, it is both likely and desirable that these needs will
in fact be met through a combination of domestic EU production and imports
from third countries.
Concerns have been raised about whether biofuel production is sustainable. Whilst biofuels are a crucial part of renewable energy policy and a key solution to growing emissions in the transport sector, they must not be promoted unless they are produced sustainably. Although the majority of biofuels currently consumed in the EU are produced in a sustainable manner, the concerns are legitimate and need to be addressed. The Directive therefore sets out stringent environmental sustainability criteria to ensure that biofuels that are to count towards the European targets are sustainable and that they are not in conflict with our overall environmental goals. This means that they must achieve at least a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings and respect a number of requirements related to biodiversity. Among other things this will prevent the use of land with high biodiversity value, such as natural forests and protected areas, being used for the production of raw materials for biofuels.
An overwhelming majority of Europeans believe that the loss of biological
diversity is a serious problem, according to a Eurobarometer survey on
attitudes to biodiversity. The survey highlights the concerns of Europeans
regarding the decline and extinction of animal and plant species, natural
habitats and ecosystems. Concern is greatest in Greece, Portugal and
Romania. The survey also reveals that Europeans are more worried about
biodiversity loss globally than in their own country.
According to the survey, Europeans see air and water
pollution and man-made disasters such as oil spills and industrial accidents
as the greatest threats to biodiversity (27%). This is followed by climate
change (19%) the intensification of agriculture, deforestation and overfishing (13%), and the construction of roads, housing, or industrial
areas (8%). Only a fifth of Europeans surveyed thought that they are
currently affected by the loss of biodiversity, but 70% think it will have
an affect on them in the future or on their children.
The Commission today announced that it will make funds available to
co-finance an emergency mass vaccination campaign against bluetongue in the
EU in 2008. Bluetongue is an insect-transmitted, viral disease which
affected thousands of animals across 11 Member States in 2007. At a
conference hosted by the Commission in Brussels today, over 350 experts met
to discuss the best ways of tackling this disease, with a particular focus
on vaccination as a prevention and control measure.
The European Commission has today adopted a proposal to revise the Novel Foods Regulation with a view to improving the access of new and innovative foods to the EU market, while still maintaining a high level of consumer protection. Under the draft Regulation, novel foods would be subject to a simpler and more efficient authorisation procedure, which should enable safe, innovative foods to reach the EU market faster. Moreover, special provisions are made for foods which have not been traditionally sold in the EU but which have a safe history of use in third countries, in order to create a more proportionate system and positive environment for trade. The proposal also sets out certain data protection rules, which aim to protect newly developed foodstuffs once authorised, and encourage companies to invest in developing new types of foods and food production techniques.
There is substantial evidence that banning the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens could considerably improve the health and welfare of these birds, according to a report published by the Commission today. An EU ban on conventional battery cages is due to enter into force from 2012, in line with Directive 1999/74/EC on minimum standards for laying hens, and the report concludes that the 2012 deadline should be maintained. Today's report details a number of independent scientific and socio-economic studies which lend support to this measure by outlining the clear benefits of changing to so-called 'enriched' cages or alternative (free range or barn) rearing systems for laying hens. The report also lists a number of recommended actions for the period leading up to the ban, including campaigns to promote public awareness of the way hens are reared, in order to provide competitive opportunities for EU producers.
"Agriculture and environmental protection: not a zero-sum game" (Europäischer
Bauerntag, Berlin, 18/01/2008)
"Food, feed or fuel: a measured policy on agricultural markets" (Meeting with the Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Ernährungsindustrie, Berlin, 18/01/2008)
Opening speech (Green Week, Berlin, 17/01/2008)
"2008: Year of the Health Check" (Meeting with the Agricultural Committee of the German Bundestag, Berlin, 17/01/2008)
"Preparing for long-term success in the dairy sector" (Seminar on Dairy sector in the context of the CAP Health Check, Brussels, 11/01/2008)
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'České pivo': PGI (OJ C 16 - 23/01/2008, p. 14)
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16 - 23/01/2008,