The European council remains divided over the milk quota system with some countries including Ireland calling for a soft landing.

Following the discussion at the previous Council Agriculture meeting on 24 March 2014, on the soft landing in the milk sector with a view to the abolition of the quota system, the surplus levy and the modification of the fat correction coefficient, Austria also asked for a statement from the Council Legal Service on the following questions:

  • Is there actually a legal basis for the collection and payment of the surplus levy after 31 March 2015?
  • Is there a possibility to pay the surplus levy over a period of five years, in the form of an interest-free loan?

Addressing the Austrian delegation request, the Council Legal Service took the view that the new Single CMO Regulation should be interpreted in the sense that the provisions covering the milk quota system provided for in the former Single CMO Regulation will continue to apply for the whole campaign 2014-2015, including as regards the operations of recovery and payment of the surplus levy to be carried out after the 31 March 2015 which are an inseparable part of that campaign.

Several delegations, supporting the Austrian delegation questioned the legal basis of the surplus levy after March 2015 and asked whether it would be possible to reduce the penalties for those countries who risk exceeding their national milk quotas, by adjusting for example the fat correction coefficients.

However, a number of delegations were opposed to this request considering that the rules defined in 2008 for the end of quota regime should be applied strictly to avoid a distortion of competition within the EU.

The Commission is due to present to the Council and the European Parliament a report by 30 June 2014 on the development of the market situation in the milk sector, as provided for in the “Milk Package” regulation. It is possible that it will also set out whether additional measures for this sector are necessary.