At the invitation of Julia Klöckner, Germany's Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, European agriculture ministers gathered today in Koblenz for an informal meeting. The focus was on lessons from the coronavirus pandemic, the regionality of production and, above all, animal welfare. The Federal Minister’s initiative to forge ahead with a harmonised, EU-wide animal welfare label received general support.

Julia Klöckner:

Today’s discussion represented an important step towards greater animal welfare in Europe. Harmonised higher standards, that are credible and transparent for consumers, are crucial in the single market.

The minister went on to say that there was also a need to reach a consensus in the EU on how far animals should be able to be transported and under what conditions. She said it must be ensured that the animals receive proper care when transported.

If this is not the case, it must be clear that the animals may then not be loaded in the first place. Animal welfare must have priority.

During the meeting, the ministers also discussed lessons from the coronavirus pandemic, to sustainably strengthen European supply chains and deepen appreciation for European agricultural production in the long term, making food and agricultural sectors even more resilient to crises. The EU Commission was tasked with carrying out a structured analysis of this matter: What were the weak points, where were the greatest deficits, and what solutions are there? Attention is focused on the role that can be played by research and innovation and, in particular, by novel breeding techniques.

Julia Klöckner:

The agricultural sector has been crucial in enabling us to deal well, so far, with the pandemic, within our remit. But one of the central lessons of the crisis is that we, in some areas, must become more independent of third-country imports - for example, in the case of feed or veterinary medicinal products. We agreed to strengthen the competitiveness of European enterprises in these areas. It is at the same time pleasing that the awareness and appreciation of regional production and of our farmers has risen during the crisis. We aim to consolidate this! But that does not mean closing ourselves off or taking a nationalist approach to consumption. Rule-based international trade, an efficient single market and regional production cycles are all sides of the same coin; they are not opposites.