1. The Twenty-first FAO Regional Conference for Europe was held in Tallinn, Estonia from 25 to 29 May 1998 at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Estonia.
2. The List of Participants is given in Appendix A to this Report.
3. On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Mr Manfred Lindau, Regional Representative for Europe, welcomed participants and expressed particular thanks to the Government of Estonia for the generous hospitality and the excellent facilities provided for the Conference. He highlighted the necessity for action aimed at sustainable food security as well as the need for a debate leading to recommendations on issues facing the agricultural sector in the European Region.
4. In his welcome address on behalf of Estonia, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Toomas Hendrik Ilves, underlined the importance of FAO’s normative activities of concern to the entire membership of the Region and stressed the impact of FAO’s efforts in support of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe undergoing economic and institutional transition.
5. The Conference unanimously elected Mr Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia as Chairman.
6. The following vice-chairmen were elected by acclamation:
7. Ms Cecilia Nordin Van Gansberghe, Head of Section, Ministry of Agriculture of Sweden, was elected Rapporteur.
8. The Conference adopted the Agenda as shown in Appendix B to this Report, with the addendum to the Provisional Agenda of "Regional Distribution of Council Seats" to Item 13.
9. The Director-General of FAO, Mr Jacques Diouf, welcomed participants to the High Level Segment and expressed deep appreciation to the Government of Estonia for the generous hospitality extended to all participants and for the excellent facilities provided. The fact that the Region’s leaders, responsible for agriculture, were gathered together for the first time in a country situated in the northern outskirts of Europe, laid the foundations for meeting the challenges of agricultural and rural development of the twenty-first century.
10. The Prime Minister of Estonia, Mr Mart Siimann, in his welcome address, underlined the importance of cooperation between FAO and Estonia. In particular he referred to the assistance provided by FAO in formulating a long-term agricultural strategy and to FAO’s neutral and unbiased advice. He also stressed that Estonia’s objective was to develop a dynamic and internationally competitive agriculture which would provide security for the people engaged in the sector, ensure moderate food prices for the consumers, develop a fair revenue system and ensure free movement of goods and exports within the context of rural development and environmental protection.
11. The Director-General delivered his Statement to the Conference, the text of which is given in Appendix C to this report.
12. The general debate was opened by Mr Franz Fischler, Member of the European Commission, responsible for agriculture and rural development who recalled that, on the occasion of the Twenty-ninth Session of the FAO Conference, he had the opportunity to outline how the European Union expected food markets to develop and impact of these developments on food security. He informed the Conference that the next wave of EU enlargement shaded all previous ones by virtue of the sheer number of candidates for accession and stressed that the applicant countries and the Union itself needed to prepare themselves thoroughly for enlargement and make the necessary accommodations. However, enlargement of the Union towards the east would not only give a clear boost to political stability and security but also raise the profile of the Union’s common foreign and security policy.
13. Twenty-one Heads of Delegation took the floor: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, EC, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey (Greece presented their written statement to the Secretariat), to report on the food and agriculture situation in their respective countries and to comment on the overall economic and agricultural situation and on policies and issues affecting the agricultural and rural sectors. These statements drew particular attention to:
14. A number of delegates reported on their TeleFood 1997 activities in their countries and the preparation for TeleFood 1998.
15. The Conference was informed of the assistance given by the World Food Programme (WFP) to selected countries in Europe.
16. In his introduction of the item, Mr M. Lindau, Regional Representative for Europe, recalled arrangements for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Summit’s Plan by the twenty third session of the Committee on World Food Security, in line with Commitment 7 of the World Food Summit Plan of Action. It was recalled that reporting should focus on actions taken towards achieving specific objectives, following the structure of the Commitments and Objectives of the Plan, and where available, results including quantitative assessments under each of the objectives.
17. With regard to the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS), the Regional Representative recalled the steps undertaken to implement the short term actions recommended for the development of FIVIMS, i.e. the activities of the Inter-agency Working Group on FIVIMS (IAWG-FIVIMS) and designation of country focal points; by mid-April 1998, 50 countries had designated their focal points and these had been provided with information and documentation on FIVIMS.
18. The Regional Representative also informed the Conference that by 17 May 1998, the Secretariat had received reports from 68 countries, of which 22 from European Member Nations, and from the European Commission.
19. From the ensuing discussion, the Conference took note of the following:
20. In reviewing the document submitted by the Secretariat, the Conference noted the importance of food safety issues in all countries and highlighted the following:
21. There was general agreement on:
22. The Conference noted:
23. It was recommended:
24. In considering the document prepared by the Secretariat, attention was drawn to the actual and potential problems of soil degradation. Examples of current problems included erosion in many areas, the substantial loss of top soil and the loss of good agricultural land to urbanisation where this was limited.
25. There was general agreement on the importance of adequate soil information systems in the prevention of soil degradation and in assisting in the process of crop forecasting. It was noted that the importance of the issues was recognised in the World Soil Charter of FAO and in the European Soil Charter. A number of databases had been integrated into a single European Information System covering the EU member states, EFTA countries and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
26. The Conference, noting FAO activities in developing a world soil and terrain database, accepted a proposal by the EU presidency that it should invite the European Commission to examine the possibility of financing the extension of the European Soil Information System (EUSIS) to incorporate information from countries which are entitled to attend this Conference.
27. This action would be subject to its cost-effectiveness and would take into account parallel activities in various countries and their national and regional bodies, to avoid duplication of effort.
28. The Conference also noted that the issue of scale would need to be addressed but that all participating countries would be invited to take part in the technical consultation process.
29. In reviewing the document submitted by the Secretariat, the Conference:
30. The Conference found the priority issues in the Region as contained in paragraphs 87 to 90 of the document rather broad. It stressed that FAO should endeavour to focus its attention, particularly in the following fields:
31. The Conference also stressed that future programme orientations take into consideration the evolving situation in the Region. Priority areas should be accompanied by an indication of the Organization’s comparative advantage on which the Organization should focus its activities, and find partners for requested assistance outside of these areas.
32. The Conference recalled the recommendation of the 20th Regional Conference in Tel Aviv in 1996 that "future reports provide quantitative data regarding resources allocated to the Region under the Regular Programme and from extra budgetary sources, as well as a qualitative assessment of resource utilisation on which recommendation on future directions could be based" (ERC/96/REP, para 13). These data had been requested to allow members to give recommendations regarding future programme orientation to face priority issues in the Region, as requested by Conference Resolution 14/69 "Authority, Terms of Reference and Constitutional Status of Regional Conferences".
33. Attention was drawn to the need for more specific objectives to meet the challenges of the Region listed in the report of FAO activities (ERC/98/2); and for priorities to be established and made known to both the FAO’s membership and more widely, which take into account the programmes of other organizations and the particular expertise of the FAO.
34. Having noted with regret that the Conference document ERC/98/2 did not contain data, as called for in the Tel Aviv recommendation, the Conference requested the Secretariat to make available to it the figures for regional planned expenditure to be found in the 1998/99 Programme of Work and Budget, and to indicate when the FAO budgetary systems would be developed to a point where the recommendation of the 20th Regional Conference could be complied with, and to structure its report to the next, i.e. 22nd European Regional Conference, under the priorities identified at this one.
35. To respond positively to the above request, the Secretariat subsequently provided Annex I/6 of the Programme of Work and Budget, 1998/99 which contained information on regional estimates by programmes. The Secretariat explained that it could not provide more detailed information on quantitative data regarding resources allocated by regions under the Regular Programme, because the FAO Programme of Work and Budget, as approved by the Conference, followed a sectorial approach i.e. structured by major programmes. Consequently, the report on expenditures followed the same structure. The Secretariat further indicated that to fully satisfy the recommendation under para 13 of ERC/96/REP required a new presentation on a regional basis allowing for an objective framework to report on a regional basis. Such fundamental change to the present budget presentation could be decided only by the FAO Conference.
36. The Conference reaffirmed the Tel Aviv recommendation, and decided to pursue the matter through consultations between the European Regional Group (ERG) and the Secretariat on ways and means to get the requested information.
37. In line with the recommendation in paragraph 20 of ERC/98/6, the Conference established a Sub-Committee (Germany, Iceland, Malta, Poland and Switzerland) to screen the nine candidatures submitted by the following Member Nations: Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Turkey. On the recommendation of the Sub-Committee, the Conference elected Mr Ervin Balázs, Director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Centre in Gödöllö (Hungary), to represent the Region on the CGIAR for the period 1999-2002.
38. The Conference expressed appreciation for the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) presentation and endorsed WAICENT’s activities, in particular in the area of plant and animal genetic resources. Furthermore, it suggested that user friendliness and demand-driven data presentation were essential. The Secretariat noted this, and also encouraged further dialogue.
39. The Conference noted that as a result of the FAO/European Federation of Zootechniques/EAAP (European Association of Animal Production) meeting held in Vienna in August 1997, France, through the Department for Genetic Resources had accepted the responsibility to serve as European Regional Focal Point for the conservation of animal genetic resources. The main objective is to establish the basis for the development and management of the network, comprising 37 European Countries, dealing with various aspects of animal genetic resources management.
40. The Conference also took note of the activities undertaken by EAAP in CEE and CIS countries.
41. The Conference noted that no proposals had yet been submitted on the date and place of the 22nd FAO Regional Conference for Europe.
42. The Conference took note of the statement delivered on this agenda item by the Head of the Delegation of Germany, which is reproduced below in extenso:
43. As Chairman of the European Regional Group, I propose that the foregoing text be included in the Report of the 21st FAO Regional Conference for Europe."
44. With some amendments, the text of the draft report was approved by the Conference.
45. The Conference expressed deep appreciation to the Government of Estonia for the excellent organization and generous hospitality offered during the Conference to delegations. It also wished to put on record its appreciation for the highly interesting study tours organized for delegations to become acquainted with Estonian agriculture and countryside.