Doc. 9807

14 May 2003

Challenges for Mediterranean agriculture

Report

Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Rapporteur: Mr Adolfo Fernández Aguilar, Spain, EPP/CD

Summary

Agriculture remains an important economic sector in the Mediterranean region (20% of GNP for south Mediterranean countries). But Mediterranean agricultural production faces different challenges such as: the diversification of production, the quality of products and the availability of water.

Other challenges concern the setting up of sustainable and multifunctional agriculture, rural development, the enlargement of the European Union and trade liberalisation. The Mediterranean countries should look for agricultural complementarities, new export markets, the harmonisation of standards and technical and financial assistance.

In that respect, the European countries, and particularly the European Union, must contribute to the development of the Mediterranean region, especially by gradually introducing a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.

I.       Draft resolution

1.       The Parliamentary Assembly notes that agriculture in the Mediterranean region has an economic and social role that goes well beyond its primary function as a supplier of food products. In some Mediterranean countries agriculture still accounts for a high proportion of GNP and employment and helps to reduce poverty, restrict emigration and protect the environment.

2.       It also notes that in a rapidly evolving international context, involving changes to the European agricultural model, new Euro-Mediterranean relations, enlargement of the European Union and the liberalisation of world trade, Mediterranean agriculture faces a number of serious challenges to which it has to find answers but for which closer co-operation with European countries is essential.

3.       In particular, the Assembly hopes that the European Union, which is the Mediterranean countries' main trading partner, will pay particularly close attention to agricultural trade with these countries, particularly given the possible consequences of its forthcoming enlargement to ten new member states (including Cyprus and Malta) and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

4.       It also welcomes the proposal in the 1995 Barcelona Declaration to establish a Euro-Mediterranean partnership leading to the gradual introduction of a free-trade area by 2010. In that connection it supports the new association agreements linking the European Union and the Mediterranean countries, while regretting the continuing lack of significant progress with regard to agricultural trade.

5.       The Assembly has also noted that while there is still a considerable trade imbalance in agri-foodstuffs between Europe and the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, the equivalent trade between the Mediterranean countries themselves suffers from a form of compartmentalisation that prevents the emergence of a genuine Euro-Mediterranean market for food products.

6.       The Assembly has identified three main ways of fostering the Mediterranean region's agricultural development: diversifying production, raising quality and improving water supplies. Efforts should also be made to encourage sustainable and multifunctional agriculture, balanced rural development and co-operation between Mediterranean countries in order to develop an intra-regional market and avoid damaging competition between the countries concerned.

7.       It also considers that agronomic research can make a substantial contribution to solving the specific problems of Mediterranean agriculture, particularly relating to climate, water and soil conditions. It therefore welcomes the activities of the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (ICAMAS) and encourages it to develop its work on new technologies (irrigation, GMOs and so on).

8.       The Assembly considers that the Mediterranean countries should consult each other on and harmonise their agricultural policies, regarding both production and commercialisation, to avoid competition damaging to their individual and collective interests and encourage complementarity between their products and their produce seasons, diversification and higher quality.

9.       Consequently, the Assembly recommends:

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Fernández Aguilar