Forum calls on farmers, industry and NGOs to rebuild trust and recognize their common objectives for sustainable agriculture

Today, the 8th annual Forum for the Future of Agriculture called on all sides to recognise the need for change and a long-lasting partnership for the global development of sustainable agriculture. We must take into account global challenges, including achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture, but also reversing climate change and using our limited resources wisely. In a time of economic crisis and following the recent CAP negotiations, there is an urgent need to find new ways to improve both farm productivity and the protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity. Speakers and delegates at the Forum recognised that the trust between proponents of farm productivity and environmental protection has been weakened, but that the innovative solutions, practices and knowledge necessary for sustainable agriculture could only be delivered by working together. According to FFA imageChairman Janez Potočnik, this is vital for realisation of the vision of the circular economy and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals both in Europe and globally. The Forum therefore called on farmers and the agri-business industry to step up their efforts to provide healthy and abundant food while reducing pressures on natural resources and our climate. Farm practices should be further adapted to benefit the environment and to improve resilience, particularly for soil conservation, water quality and biodiversity. Farmers should be recognized and rewarded for their efforts but such changes are essential to maintain and build public support for Europe’s farming systems. Input providers, including pesticide producers, were specifically asked by the Forum to be more transparent with their data, if they are to convince others of the safety of the products for both people and the environment. But the Forum also made clear that all stakeholders, including environmental NGO’s, must recognize that both, the economic viability of farmers and well-functioning ecosystems, are essential parts of sustainable land management. Amongst the 1.500 speakers and delegates attending this year’s Forum, there was an agreement that by taking these steps bridges can be built between farming and the environment. Such common ground would enable practical solutions, both on the field and in policies, to emerge that support the common goal of sustainable agriculture in Europe.

New President, FFA

New President, FFA

Appearing for the first time as the new FFA Chairman, Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner for the Environment and Chairman of the RISE Foundation, said: “In Europe we produce about 90 million tons of food waste per year, and a significant part could be easily avoided. We must work towards resource-efficient production techniques, sustainable food choices and reduced food waste in a combined effort with farmers, the food industry, retailers and consumers.” Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, commented: “Innovation is the key to sustainable food security. Through innovation, we can improve resource-efficiency, adapt to climate change, improve food safety, diversity and quality while maintaining the competitiveness of the agri-food sector and creating more and better jobs in rural areas.” Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “Realistic goals and smart legislation regarding the circular economy can help mitigate our resource deficit, strengthen our competitiveness, and at the same time improve our development sustainability.” Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, United Nations, added: “In the new Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable agriculture and food systems are critical for the overarching goal of ending extreme poverty in its different dimensions, everywhere, through sustainable rural development and rural prosperity.” Thierry de l’Escaille, Secretary-General of the European Landowners’ Organization, commented: “Innovation is crucial. As farmers and land managers, we need better access and understanding of innovative tools, new practices and new thinking if we are to achieve resilience in Europe’s agriculture. The best way to achieve this will be if all actors of food value chain, including NGO’s, food processors and industry, usher in a new period of open and trustful relationships.” Jon Parr, Chief Operating Officer at Syngenta, said: “Making agriculture more sustainable demands different thinking and new ways of working from all of us. This is what Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan is about and why we’ve embedded it in our strategy. But we also need other stakeholders to change their mindset and approach so we can work together to equip growers with the modern farm practices and innovative technologies they need to be economically, as well as environmentally, sustainable.”

imageNotes to editors The Forum’s 8th edition was chaired by former European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Franz Fischler and former European Environment Commissioner and Chairman of the RISE Foundation Janez Potočnik. It featured a range of high-level speakers, including Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission, Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, United Nations, Arun Gandhi, Agent of Change & Author, Total Nonviolence, Anne Krueger, Senior Research Professor, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, Jon Parr, Chief Operating Officer, Syngenta, Frederic Seppey, Chief Agriculture Negotiator and Director General, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada, Pavan Sukhdev, Founder-CEO, GIST Advisory, Jeremy Rifkin, Founder and President, The Foundation on Economic Trends, Ren Wang, Assistant Director General of Agriculture & Consumer Protection Department, FAO and Martin Stuchtey, Director, McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. Over 1,500 participants were present at the Forum, which remains open to all stakeholders and free to attend, making it a unique feature and highlight of Europe’s agriculture and environment conference calendar. About the Forum for the Future of Agriculture The annual Forum is an initiative of the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) and Syngenta. It brings together a diverse range of stakeholders to catalyze thinking on the way European agriculture needs to respond to the major challenges that it faces in delivering food and environmental security. The Forum was created in 2008 in response to a belief that many EU policies impacting agriculture are focused on solving yesterday’s problems, such as overproduction, and do not deal with new challenges and market opportunities. Challenges include feeding a growing world population, demand for a higher quality diet, increased demand for renewable sources of energy and changing weather patterns. With limited arable land available, there is a need to sustainably maximize production from that already under cultivation. About the European Landowners’ Organization The European Landowners’ Organization, created in 1972, is a unique federation of national associations from the 28 EU Member States and beyond which represents the interests of landowners, land managers and rural entrepreneurs at the European level. Independent and non-profit, the ELO is the only organization able to stand for all rural entrepreneurs. The ELO promotes a prosperous countryside through the dynamism of private ownership and its vision of a sustainable and prosperous countryside. Its Secretariat is based in Brussels. About Syngenta Syngenta is one of the world’s leading companies with more than 28,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life.

About the RISE Foundation The Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation is an independent pan- European foundation devoted to the conservation and development of the European rural world. Chaired by Janez Potočnik, it deals with policy analysis and project financing.

Wiener Ball in Brüssel


Der WIENER BALL in Brüssel. Das besondere, jährliche Großereignis.
Der Beitrag der Österreichischen Vereinigung in Belgien zum lebensfrohen, belgischen Fasching und zum ereignisreichen gesellschaftlichen und beruflichen Leben in Brüssel ist der große Ball, die traditionelle, von Walzerklängen begleitete abendliche Tanzveranstaltung. Jedes Jahr findet der „WIENER BALL“ in der Faschingszeit statt, und zwar im schönsten Brüsseler Ballsaal, im „Concert Noble“.

Eu Kommissar Johannes Hahn, Ballorganisatorin Karin Lukas Eder, EU Konsulent Johannes Ausserladscheiter

Eu Kommissar Johannes Hahn, Ballorganisatorin Karin Lukas Eder, EU Konsulent Johannes Ausserladscheiter

Die ÖsterreicherInnen

sorgen für die spezielle Atmosphäre: Blumenschmuck des Saales in Rot-Weiss-Rot, die Eröffnungspolonaise mit jungen Paaren, die Damen traditionell in Weiss, die Herren im Frack. Das typische Wiener Tanzorchester mit Stehgeiger kommt direkt aus Wien.

Gulaschsuppe, Würstel, Sachertorte, Patisserie und österreichische Weine sind für Magen und Gaumen vorbereitet.

Die BelgierInnen tragen mit dem wunderschönen Ballsaal mit seinen stimmungsvollen Kristalllustern bei und werden – so wie in früheren Jahren – wohl den Großteil der über 800 Gäste stellen: Die Damen werden im langen Abendkleid, die Herren in Smoking oder Uniform erwartet.

Die jungen Damen und Herren des Eröffnungskomitees werden von Herr und Frau Christoph Houtart in die Geheimnisse des Wiener Walzers, der Polonaise und der Polka eingewiesen. Die Tanzschule Marly stellt ganz zu Beginn des Balles das Kinderballett vor, das mit Grazie und Können den Walzer „An der schönen blauen Donau…“ darbietet.

Militärattaché General Mag. Günter Höfler, EU Konsulent Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, Rene Clausen ORF Brüssel mit Gattin, Oberst Mag. Anton Resch, Breitband Experte Joseph Miedl MBA

Militärattaché General Mag. Günter Höfler, EU Konsulent Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, Rene Clausen ORF Brüssel mit Gattin, Oberst Mag. Anton Resch, Breitband Experte Joseph Miedl MBA

Wenn es im Anschluss an die Eröffnung heißt: „Alles Walzer“, sind alle Besucher zum Tanz aufgefordert. Zusätzlich zum Ballorchester sorgt eine Band mit junger Musik für Unterhaltung. Neben dem Tanz und den kulinarischen Freuden bietet der Wiener Ball auch Gelegenheit zu wichtigen Gesprächen und zum Austausch mit österreichischen sowie belgischen Freunden. Der Wiener Ball ist zu einem der wichtigsten Treffpunkte in der Brüsseler Szene geworden.

Der Ball steht unter dem Ehrenschutz der österreichischen Botschafter in Brüssel – Dr. Karl Schramek beim Königreich Belgien, Dr. Walter Grahammer bei der EU – sowie EU-Kommissar Dr. Johannes Hahn und natürlich des Landeshauptmannes und Bürgermeisters von Wien, Dr. Michael Häupl.

Ein namhafter Teil des Reinerloeses des Wiener Balls fliesst karitativen Zwecken zu.



Wirtschaftsdelegation Brüssel unter der Leitung von EU Konsulent Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts

Wirtschaftsdelegation Brüssel unter der Leitung von EU Konsulent Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts

Sponsoren des Wiener Balls in Brüssel: Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts und Internationale Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Dr. Umfahrer Wien

Sponsoren des Wiener Balls in Brüssel: Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts und Internationale Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Dr. Umfahrer Wien





European Landowners: Land and Soil Management Award


European Court Experts

European Court Experts

The European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), under the auspices of the European Commission (DG Environment and the Joint Research Centre) and in association with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) of Vienna, Syngenta International AG, as well as the Centre for Soil and Environmental Sciences of the Ljubljana University, is proud to launch the call for proposals for the “Land and Soil Management Award”.
The aim of this prize is to encourage new concepts of land and soil protection and their implementation in land management as well as to enhance awareness about the importance of land and soil functions.
This prize will reward professionals working in the area of land use and soil management pursuing the EU’s soil protection goals, in particular those of the Soil Thematic Strategy.

The aim of this prize is to encourage new concepts of land and soil protection and their implementation in land management as well as to enhance awareness about the importance of land and soil functions. This prize will reward professionals working in the area of land use and soil management pursuing the EU’s soil protection goals, including those of the Common Agriculture Policy and of the Soil Thematic Strategy. In particular, the prize will reward land use and soil management practices addressing soil degradation, i.e. erosion, reduction of organic matter content, diffuse contamination, compaction as well as the reduction of soil biodiversity, salinisation, sealing, flooding and land slides.

Eligibility criteria:
The Land and Soil Management Award is intended to recognize quality instruments and management practices which contribute to the protection of land and the soil, by improving the quality of the environment.

Selection criteria:
• The project must contribute to added value to sustainable land use and imagesoil management practices, the protection and improvement of soil quality and particularly to the fight against the above-mentioned degradation processes.
• The project must be sustainable environmentally, socially and economically.
• The project must also be transferable as a model and at least innovative and original in the area / region where it takes place
• Appropriate measures must be taken to avoid: erosion, decline in organic matters, contamination, compaction, decline in soil biodiversity, salinization; sealing, floods and landslides

Prize description:
With an amount of 5000€ and a diploma of recognition, the Land and Soil Management Award Certificate will recognize outstanding tools and management practices contributing to the protection of soil and a sustainable land use, and improving environmental quality.

Deadline: The Call for applications is open until 30th November 2014.

Please send applications to the following address:

Land and Soil Management Award
European Landowners‘ Organization
Rue de Trèves 67 – B-1040 Brussels
by email to [email protected]
Tel: + 32 (0)2 234 3000; Fax: + 32 (0) 2 2 234 3009

EU Sanktionen gegen Moskau bleiben


EU hält an Sanktionen gegen Moskau fest
Am Flughafen von Donezk liefern sich Regierungstruppen und Separatisten wieder blutige Gefechte. Auch deshalb hält die EU an ihren Sanktionen gegen Russland fest. Der Kreml fordert derweil von der Ukraine drei Milliarden Euro.
Die Europäische Union hält ihre Sanktionen wegen des Ukraine-Konflikts gegen Russland aufrecht. Zwar gebe es auch „ermutigende Entwicklungen“ im Konfliktgebiet in der Ostukraine, doch seien „wesentliche Teile“ des vereinbarten Friedensplans noch nicht umgesetzt, verlautete es am Dienstag aus Diplomatenkreisen in Brüssel.

Daher sehe die EU noch keinen Grund, die Haltung gegenüber Russland zu ändern, hieß es. Die russische Wirtschaft steht seit Wochen durch die Strafmaßnahmen unter Druck. Der Rubel-Kurs setzte am Dienstagabend an der Moskauer Börse seine Talfahrt im Vergleich zum Dollar und Euro fort. Ein Euro kostete erstmals seit Wochen wieder 50 Rubel – für viele Russen eine besorgniserregende Entwicklung.

Die EU will die Strafmaßnahmen erst lockern, wenn der in der weißrussischen Hauptstadt Minsk vereinbarte Friedensplan umgesetzt wird. Der Westen wirft Russland vor, die Separatisten mit Soldaten und Waffen zu unterstützen. Die EU und Amerika wollen Moskau mit Sanktionen zu einem stärkeren Friedenskurs bewegen. Fast täglich wird die am 5. September vereinbarte Waffenruhe verletzt.
Gefechte nahe Donezk
Teil des Friedensplans ist ein Rückzug der Kämpfer aus einer Pufferzone im Konfliktgebiet. „Die Ukraine hat noch immer nicht mit dem Abzug ihrer Truppen begonnen“, sagte Separatistenführer Alexander Sachartschenko in Donezk nach Angaben der Agentur Interfax. Am Flughafen der Großstadt wehrten ukrainische Regierungstruppen nach eigenen Angaben einen abermaligen Angriff der Aufständischen ab. Sicherheitsratssprecher Andrej Lyssenko berichtete von Artilleriebeschuss. Tote habe es innerhalb von 24 Stunden nicht gegeben, sagte er. Die Aufständischen bestätigten einen Angriff auf das seit Wochen umkämpfte Gelände.

Europarat tagt zum Ukraine-Konflikt
Die Parlamentarische Versammlung des Europarates berät am Mittwoch (ab 16.00 Uhr) in Straßburg über den Ukraine-Konflikt. Abgeordnete aus Russland werden nicht dabei sein. Die Versammlung hatte den 18 Volksvertretern aus Moskau im April dieses Jahres wegen der russischen Annexion der Krim das Stimmrecht entzogen. Deshalb sind sie aus Protest aus der Versammlung ausgezogen. Damals hatte die Versammlung Moskau aufgefordert, die Annexion rückgängig zu machen. Russland und die Ukraine haben sich beide als Mitglieder des Europarates verpflichtet, die Europäische Menschenrechtskonvention zu achten.

Im Gasstreit mit der Ukraine bekräftigte Russland seine Forderung nach 3,9 Milliarden Dollar (etwa 3 Milliarden Euro). Russland öffne erst dann wieder die Gasventile, wenn eine Schuldentranche von 2 Milliarden Dollar sowie eine Vorauszahlung über 1,9 Milliarden Dollar überwiesen seien, sagte der russische Energieminister Alexander Nowak. Am Dienstag lief eine Frist für die Ukraine aus, diesen Vereinbarungen von vergangener Woche zuzustimmen. Aus Kiew gab es aber zunächst keine Reaktion. Es wird eine Fortsetzung der Gasgespräche Ende der Woche erwartet.

Die Ukraine ist das wichtigste Transitland für die Europäische Union und muss dringend ihre Gasspeicher auffüllen, um selbst über den Winter zu kommen und den Transit nach Westen zu gewährleisten. Die ehemalige Sowjetrepublik erhält wegen der offenen Rechnungen seit Juni kein Gas mehr aus Russland.

European Parlament, News

Assoziierungsabkommen mit der Ukraine
Mittel aus dem Globalisierungsfonds für entlassene Arbeitskräfte in Griechenland
Mittel aus dem Globalisierungsfonds für entlassene Arbeitskräfte in den Niederlanden
Mittel aus dem Globalisierungsfonds für entlassene Arbeitskräfte in Spanien
Israel und Palästina nach dem Gaza-Konflikt


Presented by European Court Experts

Presented by European Court Experts

Ukraine: Zeitgleich mit dem Plenum in Straßburg stimmte auch das ukrainische Parlament in Kiew über das Assoziierungsabkommen mit der EU ab. Die Abgeordneten waren über das Internet miteinander verbunden und bezeichneten dies als historischen Moment. Beschlossen wurde damit eine enge politische und wirtschaftliche Annäherung, die vor allem demokratische Reformen von der Ukraine verlangt und umfassenden Freihandel sowie größere Freizügigkeit für ArbeitnehmerInnen beinhaltet.
In einer nicht namentlich durchgeführten Abstimmung nahmen die Abgeordneten weiters eine Entschließung zur aktuellen Lage im Konflikt mit Russland an, in der sie ein entschlossenes politisches Vorgehen gegenüber Russland verlangten, das weitere Sanktionen beinhalten könnte. Sie forderten außerdem mehr finanzielle Unterstützung für von den Gegensanktionen betroffene Landwirte.

Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts

Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts

Globalisierungsfonds: Sämtliche namentlichen Abstimmungen am Mittwoch waren der Genehmigung von Mitteln aus dem Europäischen Fonds für die Anpassung an die Globalisierung gewidmet. Damit sollen entlassene ArbeitnehmerInnen bei Ausbildungsmaßnahmen und der Suche nach neuen Arbeitsplätzen unterstützt werden. Betroffen sind zum Beispiel eine griechische Backwarenfirma, die Holzindustrie in Castilla y León und die Baubranche in Gelderland-Overijssel. Die Anträge erhielten jeweils über 600 Ja-Stimmen, darunter jene aller österreichischen Abgeordneten.

Gaza-Konflikt: Das Plenum verabschiedete mit einer Mehrheit von 447 Stimmen (143 Nein, 41 Enthaltungen) eine Entschließung zu Israel und Palästina und der Rolle der EU. Es fordert darin eine aktivere Rolle der EU, die humanitäre Soforthilfe im Gazastreifen sowie eine umfassende Beteiligung an der geplanten Internationalen Geberkonferenz im Oktober in Kairo einschließt. Die momentane Lage im Gazastreifen wirkt nach Meinung der Abgeordneten einer langfristigen friedlichen Lösung des Konflikts entgegen, um die sich die EU und ihre Mitgliedsstaaten aktiv bemühen sollen.
Ein Entschließungsantrag der Linken und nordischen Grünen, der unter anderem die israelische Militäroffensive im Gaza-Streifen verurteilt, wurde nicht vom Plenum angenommen (55 Ja, 512 Nein, 71 Enthaltungen).

Weitere Höhepunkte der Sitzungswoche

CETA: Die Abgeordneten diskutierten mit Handelskommissar Karel De Gucht über das inhaltlich bereits ausverhandelte Freihandelsabkommen zwischen der EU und Kanada, kurz CETA. Dabei wurden unter anderem Aspekte wie verbesserter Marktzugang für europäische Unternehmen und die umstrittenen Investorschutz-Klauseln angesprochen. Eine Voraussetzung für das Inkrafttreten ist die Zustimmung des Parlaments, die 2015 gegeben werden könnte.

IS-Terror: In einer nicht namentlich durchgeführten Abstimmung verabschiedeten die Abgeordneten eine Entschließung, in der der Terror der Organisation „Islamischer Staat“ scharf verurteilt wird und entschiedene Unterstützung der irakischen Behörden bei ihrer Bekämpfung – inklusive militärischer Mittel – gefordert wird.

Jugendbeschäftigung: In einer Debatte zur Jugendinitiative wurden die Mitgliedstaaten aufgefordert, die Anstoßfinanzierung der EU besser auszuschöpfen, um die Jugendarbeitslosigkeit zur bekämpfen. Auch der Ruf nach vereinfachten bürokratischen Abläufen sowie verstärktem Austausch zu bewährten Maßnahmen wurde laut.


Die nächste Plenarsitzung findet von 20. bis 23. Oktober in Straßburg statt.


Obama and Merkel warn Russia of economic sanctions over Ukraine

US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden.

US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden.

US and German leaders present united front in warning Putin futher sanctions inevitable unless Russia reverses course

US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday warned Russia that sanctions targeting whole sections of the country’s economy would be inevitable unless Moscow de-escalates the situation in Ukraine before elections later this month.

Appearing together at the White House, Obama and Merkel insisted they were united in their determination to use broad, so-called “sectoral sanctions” against Russia unless it reverses course in Ukraine by the elections on May 25.

However, in remarks likely to reassure Berlin, which is particularly dependent upon Russian gas exports, Obama played down the suggestion those sanctions would include sweeping restrictions on Russia’s sale of energy to Europe.

“Energy flows from Russia to Europe, those continued even in the midst of the cold war – at the the height of the cold war,” Obama said. „The idea that you’re going to turn off the tap to all Russian oil and natural gas exports is, I think, unrealistic.“

President Putin, Russia

President Putin, Russia

Obama said there was „a remarkable unity between the United States and the European Union“ about how to use leverage against Russian president Vladimir Putin over his continued interference in Ukraine.

European countries disagree over what form additional sanctions against Russia should take. “We have to take those [differences] into account,” Obama added. “Not every country is going to be in exactly the same place.”

However, if Russia impedes Ukraine’s forthcoming elections, Obama said, “we will not have a choice but to move forward with additional, more severe sanctions.“

Merkel also gave a strong endorsement of potential new sanctions against Russia. “In Europe, we have taken a position that should further destabilisation happen, we will move to a third stage of sanctions. I would like to underline this is not necessarily what we want, but we are ready and prepared to go such a step,” she said, according to a White House translation.

“We will see to it that elections can take place,” she added.

Angela Merkel, Germany and US President Barack Obama

Angela Merkel, Germany and US President Barack Obama

The strength of Merkel’s remarks about sectoral sanctions, while satisfying Washington, may surprise other European leaders. Senior European officials have been playing down the prospects of such broad-brush sanctions, which could also hurt Europe’s economy, suggesting they would only be used as a last resort, in the event of a full-scale military incursion by Russia across the border.

Both leaders called for the immediate release of seven hostages who were working as monitors by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe when they were captured by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Merkel, who has spoken directly with Putin to try to secure the release of the hostages, four of whom are German, said their release was „a very crucial step, that needs to happen first“.

The chancellor’s appearance with Obama marked her first visit to Washington since disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed her phone calls had been recorded by the National Security Agency.

Germany has been pressing for months for a mutual “no spy” agreement with the US, without success. Instead, Germany and the US have agreed to an ongoing “cyber dialogue” over issues relating to the balance between intelligence and privacy.

The language falls well short of what Berlin wanted, and Merkel made clear that differences remain between the the two countries on the issue.

She said that, while there was some intelligence cooperation between the countries, there are still differences over “what sort of balance to strike over the intensity of surveillance” used to combat terrorism and the consequences for privacy and individual freedom.

European Land Ownwers: A Dialogue for Landscape Action

imageEuropean Cultural Landscapes at a Crossroads

In order to bring together different stakeholders, including policy makers, farmers, practitioners, scientists, NGOs and industry to ensure that all perspectives are considered both at EU and study landscape level HERCULES will host a series of workshops entitled A Dialogue for Landscape Action.

The 1st Stakeholder Workshop at the EU Level, organized by the European Landowners’ Organization, entitled European Cultural Landscapes at a Crossroads, will take place on the 23rd of May. The workshop will highlight the ongoing transformation of cultural landscapes as a result of increased rural abandonment, intensification of land-use and urbanisation. These changes threaten the ability of cultural landscapes to continue to deliver the many services they provide such as heritage values and cultural identity. In addition to that, the workshop will invite participants to express their views on how a research project like HERCULES can be as practice- and policy relevant as possible.

Registration at [email protected]



European Court Experts presents ELO News

Sustainable Futures for Europe’s Heritage in Cultural Landscapes, commonly known as HERCULES, is a 3-year project funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, with 13 partners involved. The project promotes sustainable management and good landscape practices through public and private cooperation, as these cultural landscapes offer tremendous value for their contribution to Europe’s historical and natural heritage, for their aesthetic and recreational scenery, as well as for the ecosystem services they provide. However, such landscapes are subject to the dangers generated by increased rural abandonment, intensification of land-use and urbanisation. Developed around nine regional study landscapes, the HERCULES project will result in the elaboration of a set of landscape policy recommendations at EU level, which will provide policy makers and practitioners with up-to-date information to guide effective decision-making on how to protect heritage in cultural landscapes.

For more information, please refer to the HERCULES website at

European Landowners Organisation: ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT


imageThe European Confederation of Maize Production (CEPM), an association of European maize producers, is making its presence felt in Brussels by organising on 24th April a seminar on innovative agro-economic solutions offered by maize-growing in the framework of greening under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The seminar stimulated discussion among over 70 people, including EU Institution officials, attachés from Permanent Representations, representatives of sectoral associations and environmental NGOs (e.g. BirdLife), and journalists.
Winter cover of post-maize soil ensures the greatest possible agronomic and environmental benefits, provided it respects the required recommendations. In the absence of winter cover, there is an alternative: mulching, an agronomic technique practised since the 17th century in the valleys of great rivers such as the Garonne, the Danube and the Rhine.
Mulching involves grinding the residues of crops and incorporating them superficially into the soil. It is particularly suitable for maize crops as the stalks of maize are neither used nor exported.

Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts

Dr. Johannes Ausserladscheiter, European Court Experts presents ELO News

Moreover, this sensible use of residues leads to excellent results in terms of return of organic material to the soil, carbon sequestration, protecting against erosion and equally reducing the risk of disease and parasites without recourse to chemical substances.
To continue being applied, mulching needs to be recognised by the Commission as an “equivalent practice” to winter cover in the framework of the CAP greening. For this purpose, Member States have to notify the Commission of their intention to grant equivalence to these practices.

Ultimately, the Commission can make the final decision.
By taking a proactive approach, the workshop clearly demonstrated the advantages of the innovative practices put forward by the maize sector for the CAP greening, keeping in mind that in the long run those solutions will have to become more widespread to anticipate future directions of the CAP in the 2020 horizon.


ELO: Innovative solutions for the new CAP greening




European Firms Seek to Minimize Russia Sanctions

BERLIN — With the showdown over Ukraine escalating and President Obama warning Moscow of a tough new round of sanctions, Russia and its allies in the European private sector are conducting a separate campaign to ensure that they can maintain their deep and longstanding economic ties even if the Kremlin orders further military action.

European banks and businesses are far more exposed to the Russian economy than are their American counterparts. Trade between the European Union and Russia amounted to almost $370 billion in 2012, while United States trade with Russia was about $26 billion that year.

As a result, they have lobbied energetically to head off or at least dilute any sanctions, making it hard for American and European political leaders to come up with a package of measures with enough bite to influence Moscow’s behavior in Ukraine.

President Putin, Russia. European Commissions President Manuel Barroso

President Putin, Russia. European Commissions President Manuel Barroso

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, energy companies, exporters, big users of Russian natural gas and investors with stakes in Russia have counseled caution. “Neither in energy terms, nor politically, should we turn away from Russia,” said Rainer Seele, the chairman of Wintershall, a subsidiary of the large German-based chemical company BASF that is deeply entwined in Russia’s oil and natural gas trade.

Russia is already paying a price for its foreign policy, experts say, with capital leaving the country and the ruble falling steadily, causing the government to raise interest rates. Its government bonds were downgraded on Friday to near junk status by Standard & Poor’s in the latest indication that its economy is already under growing pressure.

In a statement on Friday, the White House said Mr. Obama had discussed Ukraine with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. Mr. Obama said only that the leaders had “agreed to work closely together, and through the G-7 and European Union, to coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia,” and European governments, without being specific, signaled that they were ready to take some kind of action.

On Friday evening, a senior Obama administration official said sanctions against more Russian individuals could be announced as early as Monday. Two Western officials said that the European Union would impose sanctions against 15 Russians.

And late Friday night, the White House released a statement from the Group of 7, which said: “We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia.

“Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections,” the statement added, “we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.”

The phone discussion among the leaders came at the end of a week in which executives of the giant Russian gas company, Gazprom, stumped across the European capitals, rallying support from customers and suppliers against increased tensions and making the case that Russia and Europe were long-term economic partners who should not let temporary crises cut their ties. Gazprom is 50 percent owned by the Russian government.

“Sanctions will not help anybody, they would not just hurt Russia, but also Germany and Europe as a whole,” Mr. Seele of Wintershall has said.

Alexander Medvedev, the No. 2 at Gazprom, said that his company had done everything possible to keep gas flowing to both Ukraine and Europe, but that the time of a financial reckoning was near, alluding to the $18.5 billion that he said Ukraine owed. How, he asked, can a publicly traded company like Gazprom keep contractual promises and make needed investments with such a cash shortfall from a slippery customer? Perhaps, he suggested, Ukraine’s Western friends would like to help meet these bills.

About a quarter of the European Union’s gas supplies originate in Russia. More than half of Russia’s exports go to the European Union, and 45 percent of its imports come from the European Union, according to European statistics.

imageThe pace at which the Ukraine crisis is changing the economics and geopolitics of Europe became clear again on Friday when Ms. Merkel endorsed a suggestion from Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland for a common energy policy for the 28-nation European Union. But even the general embrace of the idea by Germany suggests that European Union countries might be prepared to pull together with the kind of unified response that Russia and Russian businesses fear could lead to Moscow’s isolation.

No European industry has been as open in its support of Russia as the energy industry. Executives have publicly voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions, lobbied behind the scenes to head them off and traveled to Russia, on at least one occasion to pose with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. And the Russians, while publicly playing down the effects of sanctions, have been trying to exert influence in Brussels and elsewhere, lobbyists said.

In an interview on Friday, Gerhard Roiss, the chief executive of the Austrian oil and gas supplier OMV, which has been working with Gazprom for five decades, said, “You cannot talk about sanctions if you don’t know the outcome of sanctions.”

“Europe has developed over the last 50 years into a region where we have a division of labor and a division of resources, and this means in concrete terms that energy is imported from Russia and products — automotive or machinery — are exported from European countries into Russia,” he added.

Mr. Roiss met with Gazprom’s chief executive this week and reaffirmed their business ties. He pointed out that this was hardly the first political crisis the sides had faced. The year Russian gas first started flowing into Austria, 1968, was the same year the Soviets invaded the former Czechoslovakia. “We’ve had a crisis situation several times, but if you see it over the 50 years, natural gas was not used as a weapon, and we should not use gas as a weapon,” he said.

Before the call between the European leaders and Mr. Obama, Ms. Merkel called Mr. Putin in what appeared to be a last warning to fulfill the accord reached in Geneva last week to reduce tensions in Ukraine. Minutes later, a Kremlin statement put a different spin on the call, saying that both Mr. Putin and Ms. Merkel had called for three-party talks on Russian gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine.

Whether that was an indication that Mr. Putin now feared that tough sanctions loom — sanctions that Western leaders argue would inflict more harm on Russia’s heavily oil- and gas-dependent economy than on Europe — was not clear.

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Mr. Medvedev’s tour of Europe, and what he said was constant contact with the European Union’s energy commissioner, Guenter Oettinger, suggested that Russian business was very worried about losing what it has carefully built.

Do not forget, Mr. Medvedev urged Europe, that Gazprom has for decades — right through the Cold War and multiple East-West crises — been a reliable supplier. It has no intention of leaving customers in the lurch now.

“We are not planning to cut gas to Ukraine,” Mr. Medvedev said. “We just would like to receive payment for the gas that we are going to deliver.”

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In 2006 and especially 2009, when Ukraine and Russia were locked in disputes over natural gas prices, European customers experienced delivery shortfalls for which Gazprom blamed Ukraine’s siphoning of supplies intended for Europe to meet its own domestic needs.

“There never were, are not and won’t be plans to cut” delivery, Mr. Medvedev said of the current situation. For one thing, he added, “we are too much dependent on the cash flow from Europe.”

imageRussian business — not to mention rich Russians who have eagerly bought property everywhere from London to France, Berlin and the Czech spa city of Karlovy Vary — is now not just embedded in the energy supply and financial markets of Europe. As any soccer fan could see in the Champions League matches this week, Gazprom is a main sponsor of the sport in Europe.

Whether that has bought much independence from the image of the Russian government is questionable. Pressure has risen markedly on German business since Joe Kaeser, the chief executive of Siemens, met Mr. Putin in late March. Mr. Kaeser was not admonished outright, but Ms. Merkel had a distinctly frosty face for him two days later when both attended a signing of new contracts with China.

BP has a 19.75 percent stake in Rosneft, the Russian oil giant. “We’re monitoring the situation, and clearly we’re committed to our investment in Russia,” said Toby Odone, a BP spokesman. “People keep asking us to speculate what would happen if such and such a sanction were imposed, and we’re not going to do that. As things stand, our interests in Russia have not been affected by the measures that have so far been imposed.”

Mr. Roiss said he had spoken to officials “on the European level and on the national level.”

“This is not an issue of lobbying, it’s an issue of saying what you think,” he said. “My feedback from talking to politicians, wherever they are, is that people see that this is quite a broad issue, that one should not really mix too much into politics.”

Alison Smale reported from Berlin, and Danny Hakim from London. Michael R. Gordon contributed reporting from Washington and Mark Landler from Seoul, South Korea.