Germany and France, the two major agri-food producers in the EU, have committed themselves to close cooperation towards more sustainable farming practices. To this end, in a meeting in Paris, on 7 January, Hans-Peter Friedrich, the newly appointed German minister of food and agriculture, and his French counterpart, Stephane Le Foll, agreed to set up a working group on agro-ecology. "This meeting highlighted a shared vision to combine production needs with environmental imperatives," the French Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement following the meeting. "In this regard, the ministers decided to set up a Franco-German working group on agro-ecology," it added.

It was Friedrich's first visit abroad after taking up the post in the new German CDU-CSU-SPD coalition government that was inaugurated in December 2013. He has already been acting minister of food, agriculture and consumer protection after his predecessor, Ilse Aigner (CSU), left to take up office in the state government of Bavaria in October 2013. Prior to that, Friedrich served as interior minister and deputy chairman of the parliamentary group of the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists (CDU-CSU). Under the new government, the food and agriculture brief has been separated from consumer rights, responsibility for which has gone to the Ministry of Justice. Friedrich's new portfolio is therefore less prestigious than under his predecessor, Aigner.

This is not the first Franco-German attempt to strengthen cooperation in agriculture. Over three years ago, Berlin and Paris set up a working group to frame reform of the...

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