The Council had already agreed upon conclusions regarding the EU forest strategy in the run-up to the meeting – due to the exceptional circumstances through a written procedure. Another key objective of the German Council Presidency has thus been achieved. The EU Commission intends to present the new strategy during the first half of 2021 as the current forest strategy is due to expire at the end of the year. The EU forest strategy is not intended to replace the forest policies of individual member states; instead it will underpin them by providing the framework for necessary measures at EU level.

Federal Minister Julia Klöckner:

It is highly significant that we were also able to achieve a common position and therefore an agreement with regard to forests in the Council. Revitalising our forests goes hand in hand with sustainable forestry. After all, it is our foresters and forest owners who have to make forest conservation and climate-smart forest conversion a reality. We need to strike a smart balance between climate change mitigation, biodiversity and economic viability.

The Council conclusions call on the EU Commission to develop a forest strategy that supports three main objectives:

  • promoting sustainable and multifunctional forest management;
  • supporting forestry and the forest-based sector with its millions of forest owners as part of a solution for international development goals and the associated policy objectives of the EU;
  • improving the coordination and coherence of forest-related EU policies and the collaboration among member states as well as between member states, the Commission and relevant stakeholders.

Greater appreciation for food

The Agriculture Ministers also talked about progress made in reducing food losses and wastage. The EU and its member states intend to halve per capita food losses and wastage by 2030 at retail and consumer level as well as reduce losses along the production and supply chains. Food losses and wastage in the EU currently amount to a total of 87.6 million tonnes per year.

Federal Minister Julia Klöckner:

The fight against food wastage is an environmental, economic and moral obligation. I am delighted that the topic has gained new momentum in the EU thanks to the revision of the Waste Framework Directive and other initiatives. Here, too, Germany is leading the way with a national comprehensive strategy to combat food wastage, which involves all sectors along the food chain. All stakeholders are made aware of their responsibilities. Europe must also go down this path – a path which Germany has already embarked on.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, gave the Agriculture Ministers an overview of the situation on the agricultural markets against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainties caused by Brexit.

Another item on the agenda was the preparation of the United Nations Food Systems Summit that is scheduled for September 2021: by next spring, the EU member states intend to agree on Council conclusions on this topic. UN Special Envoy and Rwanda’s former Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, spoke about the summit at the meeting.

In addition, the Danish delegation informed the Agriculture Ministers about the current situation of the SARS-CoV outbreaks on mink farms in Denmark.