Ministers of Agriculture agreed that the Food Aid for the Most Deprived Persons Scheme should be prolonged for two years, after several difficult debates within the Council, in which six Member States strongly opposed the scheme.
The Agriculture Council adopted its first-reading position on the 23 January 2012, with only Sweden, Denmark and the UK opposing. The Czech Republic abstained.
At the December Agriculture Council last year, a political agreement within the Council guaranteed the continuation of the programme for the distribution of food to the most deprived persons for the years 2012 and 2013. The Council’s position at first reading was adopted on the basis of this political agreement. This position was extensively discussed with the European Parliament in order to reach an early agreement to allow the scheme’s entry into force on the new rules as soon as possible with a retroactive working as from 1 January 2012.
The new provisions of the programme enlarge the scope of products eligible for the scheme - now market purchases are made a regular source of supply for the scheme to complement intervention stocks. This was exactly the very problem when the European Court of Justice ruled the market purchases illegal. It also gives preference to products of EU origin.
It is planned to move the scheme to the European Social Fund in 2014 and use intervention stocks to supplement the programme.
The programme will be fully financed by the EU. The annual budget line of the programme remains at around 500 million euro in 2012 and 2013 (as compared to announced cuts by 30% if dispute over the scheme unsolved). More than 18 million EU citizens from the most vulnerable backgrounds are currently benefiting from this programme; although the programme itself and the nutritional value of eligible products have been under revision by the European Commission since 2009.
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