On March 5th 2019, AREPO held its first annual General Assembly in Thessaloniki (Greece). The Assembly, chaired by the President of AREPO, Mrs Theano Vrentzou-Skordalaki, Deputy Governor of Crete, has been hosted by the Region of Central Macedonia, one of the most recent members of the network.
“Geographical Indications are important for Europe. It means a direct link between the producer and the consumer and this link is trust and a commitment that the producer of Geographical Indication or PDO delivers an authentic product. […] These products, PDO and PGI, are a common cultural heritage of the European Union. It is a system of values that we have created and we have now recognized within our own borders”, said Mrs Katerina Zografou, Central Macedonia Regional Counsellor, in the opening session, laying stress on the relation between GIs and Innovation as well as on the important role they play in the Tourism sector.
The effort of linking GIs with tourism and the recognition of GIs added value to local development, especially in terms of jobs created, has been at the core of welcome speeches delivered by Mr Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, and Mrs Gerakina Bisbina, Deputy Governor for Rural Development of the Region of Central Macedonia.
The main topics discussed by AREPO members have been the new CAP post 2020 and the revision of quality policy, the international protection of PDO and PGI quality products in the framework of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications, GIs and sustainability and Regional Brands.
Several political representatives of AREPO Regions took part in the General Assembly, bringing their contributions to the discussion, particularly on the legislative proposal on the revision of CAP post-2020 and GI regulations, on which AREPO has focused its lobbying activity, collaborating with OriGIn in order to adopt a common position to defend together geographical indications at EU level.
The combination of AREPO's experience in rural development and OriGIn's expertise in intellectual property rights has been really effective, since all the amendments proposed to strengthen the position of GIs in rural development and sectoral interventions and to reinforce their protection, have been all taken into account by MEPs from different political groups in the AGRI Committee in their own amendments.
AREPO members warned about some critical points of the CAP post-2020, especially regarding the weakening of the role of Regions by the proposal of a single managing authority at national level.
"AREPO member Regions are very committed to ensuring that the future CAP is regionalised according to the possibilities of optimal subsidiarity of each Member State so that rural development measures can be adapted to the different production conditions of each territory for PGI and PDO products, mountain products, local products and products from organic farming".
Even though there will be no vote on the text by the EP plenary in April, it will be important to keep the debate on CAP alive, especially for GIs, which are identity factors of our Regions and require appropriate political choices, capable of taking into account the specificities and needs of products and the related territorial contexts, as mentioned by Mrs Simona Caselli, the Minister of Agriculture of Emilia-Romagna Region. This is the reason why she called for “very strong involvement of regions and networks of regions”. Furthermore, following the concerns raised by the ENVI committee opinion on the deletion of measures dedicated to promotion, Regions must remain vigilant on the CAP.
This meeting has been the first AREPO General Assembly in which the Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano participated as Vice-presidency of the network. Mr Guglielmo Garagnani, vice-president of the consortium, presented the results of the first working meeting of the College of Producers, hosted by the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium in Reggio Emilia, asking for better recognition of the role of producer organisations in the management of GIs and for more information and training on GIs both for consumers and producers.
Finally, in addition to the historical members, the General Assembly has been an occasion to welcome the representatives of new members and partner Regions, in particular Mrs Gurr-Hirsch, State Secretary of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, who pointed out the main aspects on which Baden-Württemberg quality policy for food products is based and the activity of the State in this area.
AREPO is a network of regions and producer associations. It represents 34 member Regions, from 8 different Member States of the EU, and around the 50% of European GIs.