Principles of cooperation with partner countries

Learn more about the BMEL's priority countries for cooperation and the principles, objectives and instruments of bilateral cooperation with these countries.

Principles of cooperation with countries in Europe and the Middle East

The priority countries for cooperation with Europe and the Middle East are the EU member states as well as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey.


Cooperation with European states is fundamentally different from cooperation with states in other continents and regions. Firstly, there are no individually selected priority countries. Instead there is close cooperation with all the member states of the European Union on the basis of contractual obligations (European Treaties). Secondly, the nature of the cooperation is also heavily characterised by decisions taken not at the bilateral level but in EU bodies. One essential element of cooperation therefore lies in knowing and understanding the situation of other member states in Europe, defining areas of common ground and divergence in the positions, and drawing up viable compromises and strategies for the development of common policies in the European Union.

Since the beginnings of European integration, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been one of the most important areas of European political activity. It ranks among the policy areas with the highest level of integration. Time and again, the CAP has been adapted to suit the changing living conditions in Europe. In the current deliberations regarding the further development of the CAP beyond 2013, the main focus is on issues such as how the CAP can be made more effective in helping to tackle major challenges. These include coping with the consequences of globalisation, dealing with climate change, and preserving vibrant rural areas. But the agricultural sector is torn here between the conflicting demands of social and environmental responsibility, and the economic demands of sustainable entrepreneurial business.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is another area of EU policy that is highly communitised. The goal of the CFP is to ensure that living aquatic resources are utilised under sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions. Proposals on CFP reform are currently being debated. In future, considerably stricter measures are set to ensure that fish stocks are replenished. This includes the introduction of discard bans and landing requirements, along with the extension of multi-annual management plans covering all commercially harvested fish stocks. Given the over-exploitation of the seas, the approach of European fisheries policy is to implement modern management techniques for fisheries. In future, by-catches will have to be landed and discarding at sea will only be permitted in certain exceptional cases.

Outside the European Union, the most important partner countries include Russia and Ukraine. Russia has more than 9 percent of the world's farmed agricultural area and – being the largest forested country on earth – is also of major importance in the forestry sector. Germany and Russia have therefore been linked by a strategic partnership for many years. The country is the second most important non-EU market for German products in the agri-food and farm machinery sectors. But due to the annexation of Crimea, which violates international law, and the Russian policy of destabilisation in eastern Ukraine, relations with Russia are currently strained. On 6 August 2014, the Russian government imposed an import ban on various agricultural products in response to EU sanctions.

As a neighbouring country of the EU, Ukraine is an important political partner. The country is an important supplier of raw materials and has considerable potential in the field of agricultural production given its amount of previously unused fertile land and the opportunities for increasing efficiency. Using this potential can contribute to global food security. The BMEL has significantly enhanced bilateral cooperation with Ukraine to support the structural reforms in Ukraine.

The most important goals of the bilateral cooperation with both countries are the promotion of trade, the modernisation of the agri-food sector in order to increase productivity, and political dialogue on food security issues. Upon the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Working Group on Agriculture was set up at the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations. It supports and accompanies German companies that trade and invest in the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The Middle East

Turkey is of considerable importance as a geopolitical and trade bridgehead to the Middle East. Although the percentage of the GDP accounted for by the agricultural sector has sunk dramatically in recent years, Turkey remains one of the major agricultural producers. Germany is already Turkey's most important trading partner. Looking ahead, the young, upwardly mobile middle class has particularly great potential for increasing sales in food products. One core element of the cooperation with the EU and Germany is implementing EU Community law in the agricultural and food sectors. Bilaterally, the BMEL is particularly engaged in quality assurance in organic farming and in strengthening the cooperative sector. There are also German-Turkish research partnerships, for instance in the field of breeding resilient grape varieties and developing and assessing innovative approaches to plant genetics and plant breeding. At State Secretary level, the German-Turkish Steering Committee on Food and Agricultural Policy convenes at regular intervals to address and agree on current topics for cooperation in the food and agricultural sectors.

Israel has turned from being a country heavily characterised by farming to a centre of industry and services. It has outstanding expertise in agriculture, in the irrigation of arid and semi-arid land, and in food security research. Israel is linked to the EU via an Association Agreement. About 50 percent of Israel's agricultural imports come from the EU.
Due to their natural circumstances and purchasing power, several other Middle Eastern countries – including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – have traditionally been importers of agricultural products, making them attractive sales markets for the German agri-food industry.
The objectives for cooperation with countries in this region include promoting bilateral trade and reducing trade barriers, expanding agricultural research and cooperation on issues such as food security, consumer protection and food safety.

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