Josep Maria Peligri i Aixut, President of AREFLH (Catalunya) and Vincent Labarthe, President of AREPO (Midi-Pyrénées) welcomed Commissioner Phil Hogan, and MEP Eric Andrieu, first vice-president of Comagri at the European event on quality products, fruit and vegetables on March 25th in Brussels.
Vincent Labarthe, President of AREPO and Vice-President in charge of agriculture at the Regional Council of Midi-Pyrénées, and Josep Maria Peligri I Aixut, President of AREFLH and Minister of Agriculture of Catalunya, organized together the European event on quality products, fruit and vegetables on Wednesday, March 25th, at the Common House of Hessen, Emilia-Romagna and Aquitaine in Brussels.
A high-level thematic conference on promotion, innovation and market access in the afternoon was followed by a presentation/tasting of regional products of AREFLH and AREPO’s members in the evening. For the occasion,18 tables of regional products and 2 wine bars were set up, showing the diversity and quality of European productions of fruit, vegetables and quality products (PDO and PGI).
The conference was an opportunity to honor the memory of Guy Saint-Martin, former Vice-President of the Regional Council of Aquitaine, founder and first president of both networks, and to the commemorate the victims of the Germanwings A320 crash.
Mr Diego Canga Fano, Director of multilateral relations and quality policy at the European commission, highlighted the high standards implemented by European producers. He also affirmed that it is necessary to inform the internal market and especially the export markets about these standards. To reach this goal, the European Commission will provide to the producers the financial means thought the promotion programme, that will increase the funding up to € 200 million per year at the end of the program, in 2020.
The MEP Paolo de Castro, rapporteur for the European Parliament on TTIP negotiations, had a speech about the importance to settle the transatlantic agreements as fair as possible. He reminded how it is necessary to safeguard the quality and the protection of geographical indications, but at the same time how the TTIP agreements are a potential opportunity to open a new window of market towards 320 millions of inhabitants.
The MEP Herbert Dorfmann, explained how he defends “modern” regulation mechanisms which can help producers without violating the rules of both internal and external competition. He chose as example the “apple sector” for his expertise in his home province of Bolzano in Italy.
Experts on fruit and vegetables and quality products have provided concrete evidence about the difficulties of these sectors, sustaining AREFLH and AREPO’s propositions.
Ministers of agriculture of Lombardia – Gianni Fava – and Emilia-Romagna – Simona Caselli – have testified about the experience in their regions and about the guidance established by local authorities to support these essential productions for territorial development.
Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Phil Hogan, first vice-president of Comagri of European Parliament, Eric Andrieu, and Presidents of AREPO and AREFLH closed the debate.
Vincent Labarthe, President of AREPO, requested better protection against the danger of fraud regarding the origin of products. Protecting producers, territories and consumers is a government’s duty. On market access and trade agreements, he said that the EU must find a balance between an open market and the protection of its economy and its territories, maintaining the requirements on the environment and on workers and consumers security. Finally, talking about innovation, he reminded that the territories are alive and evolving, including those territories producing traditional PGI and PDO products. What is a tradition, if not an innovation that has succeeded and has been carried on? Today’s innovations will be traditions of tomorrow. AREPO is committed to work on all these issues for the regions and the producers.
Josep Maria Peligri i Aixut, President of AREFLH, reminded the commitment of the entire sector to the maintenance of the European program of distribution of fruit and vegetables in schools. This program targets young people who are notably low consumers in a context of significant decrease of the consumption. Then, he highlighted the urgency of establishing an effective and responsive system for prevention and crisis management within the CMO. The embargo put in place by the Russian authorities on food products, fruit and vegetables, reminded the fragility of of the sector. Finally, he spoke on behalf of the producers organizations and their associations for an operational and legally and financially secure CMO.
Commissioner Phil Hogan, acclaimed the work of AREPO and AREFLH networks, highlighted the importance of the commitment of both Regions and producers organizations at the European level. He reminded his top priorities for the coming months: aid for young farmers (via innovative financing set up with the European Investment Bank), CAP simplification, new markets development and TTIP negotiations, in which geographical indications will be specifically monitored.
AREPO and AREFLH networks represent regional authorities and producers of 41 European regions from 8 countries. They gather 50% of geographical indication (PGI and PDO), 45% of fruit and vegetables, and 70% of flowers and plants in Europe. Their common goal is to represent, promote and defend the interests of producers and consumers by promoting the high quality of European productions.