Summary: EU Farm Ministers meeting in Council on December 14/15, chaired for the last time by Austrian Minister Wilhelm Molterer, will need to finish off the agri-monetary arrangements ready for the Euro on January 1, but the pressure is also on them to decide on the proposed ban on four antibiotics in animal feed, deal with the Commission's contested proposal on Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) in cattle and sheep and put their stamp of approval on the proposed food aid package to Russia. The Ministers will also be discussing Agenda 2000 and the reform of the wine sector, organic farming, EU forestry strategy, the Veterinary Equivalence Agreements with the US and Canada and the package of proposals regarding seeds.

Agenda 2000. The Farm Ministers are to discuss the follow-up to the December 11/12 European Council in Vienna and the Conclusions that were adopted there - include the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - and stress that appropriate financial resources need to be made available to carry the reforms through and that the negotiations on this should be finished by March 1999. They will also prepare the contributions on Agenda 2000 to be passed on to the German Presidency of the Council. At the request of the European Council, the Farm Council will also discuss setting up the high-level group of national representatives which is to assist it in the final political stage of negotiations. Wine sector reform. The Council will also be looking at the reform of the wine sector in view of the work that has been done by the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) since this subject was last discussed at the Farm Council in October. The Council, which is awaiting the European Parliament's Opinion on the subject, will hold a debate on the orientation of the different delegations on the proposed reforms on the basis of a questionnaire made by the Presidency and submitted to the SCA. This debate should bring to light divergences on the fundamental points of the reform, which, in turn should facilitate the further technical work to be done on the subject. The Presidency questionnaire covers, in particular, the wine-growing potential and whether the planted area responds to the real needs of the sector, market mechanisms and the kind of intervention which should be used if a crisis occurs, wine-making practices, opening up to non-EU countries and also budgetary considerations. Agri-monetary system for the Euro. Despite some reservations...

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