GI reform: the sectors unite against the weakening of the GI system
10 November 2021, Brussels. Following today’s meeting of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Wine, Spirits and Quality Products, the Geographical Indication (GI) sector, represented by AREPO, EFOW and oriGIn EU, urges the European Commission (EC) to abandon proposals that would weaken the EU’s GI policy. They call for an ambitious reform that will strengthen GIs within the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy.
In the mission letter he received from President Von der Leyen, Commissioner Wojciechowski was asked to examine ways to strengthen the GI system. Over the last three years, the EU’s GI policy has undergone in-depth reforms with very positive results: an improvement in protection, a simplification of procedures, the possibility to introduce sustainability elements in product specifications and new tools available to producers for the management of GIs. The EC presented to the Intergroup the main elements of the legislative proposal that it intends to table in the coming months: delegation of the management of GIs to the Alicante Trademark Office (EUIPO), absence of a concrete proposal on GIs and sustainability, reinforcement of the protection of GIs online and harmonisation of controls.
AREPO’s President, Mrs. Begoña García Bernal, Regional Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development, Population and Territory of the Extremadura region, underlines: “EU Geographical Indications are crucial in preserving the territorial balance at regional level. They play a major role in maintaining economic and social activity in rural areas, representing key tools to address the “rural exodus”. The ongoing revision of the EU GIs system should strengthen their impact on territories also through the empowerment of GI producer groups. They should have a greater role in promoting, marketing and protecting their products. Their role can go further, by entrusting them with providing training to young generations of producers and elaborating valorisation strategies for out territories.”
EFOW’s President, Mr. Bernard Farges, explains: “We are puzzled by the first announcements of the European Commission. It seems that the EC has stopped believing in the added value and the important role of GIs from an agricultural policy perspective and territorial development point of view. Over the years, European GIs have become a symbol of the quality of European food products and drinks around the world. Considerable investments have been made by public and private actors to strengthen the protection and promotion of GIs, which have benefited many territories in the EU. Now, the EC seems ready to treat them as a mere intellectual property right. Delegating the management of GIs to the EUIPO would be a serious mistake. This move towards a strictly intellectual property approach would mean in the long run the privatisation of the GI system and the end of its specificity. GIs are a public good with a policy in the EU that is based on a sui generis system. This has major implications in terms of rural and sustainable development, ex officio protection and derogations from competition law. Adopting a purely IP perspective is not acceptable. We would lose what makes the interest for GIs, their multidimensional elements, as we would slowly but inexorably move towards the trademark system. ”
oriGIn President, Claude Vermot-Desroches, insists: “The proposals of the European Commission represent a meagre reform if we compare them to what has just been achieved in the CAP reform for GIs. The latter gives us new tools to strengthen the development, sustainability and protection of GIs. It is a good legal framework that takes into account the role of GIs as a public policy instrument and a powerful tool for local development. This model continues to inspire many countries around the world. While further improvements to this framework and an ambitious review of the GI system are needed, the foundations of this European success story must not be undermined.“. He recalls that “by their very nature, GIs already contribute today to the achievement of many of the objectives of the F2F strategy: production that cannot be relocated, specific production methods, creation of added value for the benefit of producers, guarantees for consumers via controls, landscape management, maintenance of traditions and the rural population, to name a few. Anchored in our territories, we work relentlessly towards better sustainability and the protection of biodiversity. ”
NOTE TO EDITORS
Intergroups are informal bodies meeting monthly in the European Parliament. They can be formed by Members of the European Parliament MEPs) from any political group and any committee, with a view to holding informal exchanges of views on specific subjects and promoting contact between MEPs and civil society. The wine spirits and quality products Intergroup is co-presided by MEP Tolleret (Renew, FR) et MEP Zoido (PPE, ES)
AREPO, the Association of European Regions for Products of Origin (www.arepoquality.eu), is a network of regions and producer associations that deals with products of origin and EU quality schemes. It represents 33 European regions and over 700 associations of producers for over 60% of European GIs.
EFOW, the European Federation of Origin Wines (www.efow.eu), is the Brussels-based organisation representing PDO and PGI wines towards European institutions. EFOW represents over 80% of EU GI wines. As the voice of origin wines, EFOW’s mission is to defend and promote the concept of wines with Geographical Indications at the EU and international level.
oriGIn EU is the European antenna of the World Alliance of Geographical Indications (www.origin-gi.com) and represents individual GI groups as well as national GI associations to the European institutions. The GI sector makes a significant contribution to the European economy, representing a sales value of over 75 billion euros and some 15.5% of total EU food and drink exports.
Revision of EU geographical indications scheme
- 3 224 EU GIs were protected in the EU in 2020
- Sales value of GIs (2020): €74.8 billion (42% of the sales in exports)
- More than 15% of total EU food and drink exports
- EC President mission letter to AGRI Commissioner in 2019: “calls for a strengthening of the EU GI system”.
- Farm to Fork Strategy: The Commission will “strengthen the legislative framework on geographical indications (GIs) and, where appropriate, include specific sustainability criteria”
- Major reviews of the GI policy took place in the last two years:
- The spirits regulation was reviewed in 2019, including a modification of the provisions regarding spirit GIs and an improvement of the protection of spirit GIs (new Regulation (EU) 2019/787).
- The recent agreement on the reform of the CMO and the Regulation 1151/2012 is a major step towards the strengthening of the GI policy: better protection, ability to introduce sustainability requirements in GI specifications, new tools for producers to better manage their GIs.
- Council Conclusions on the F2F Strategy welcomed a better integration of sustainable development into Union quality policy and invited the Commission to reaffirm the relevance and importance of EU quality schemes and to strengthen the legislative framework on geographical indications.
- In its own initiative report, the European Parliament recognises the role of EU quality schemes and geographical indications in the EU[…], and welcomes the revision of the EU GI policy to allow protected geographical indications or designations of origin to further contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of European regions.
PDO, PGI GI products contribute to several fundamental objectives of F2F strategy: addressing citizens demand for a variety of products that represent the different traditional diets of the Member States; socio-economic sustainability thanks to conditions of fair competition and higher producers income; sustainable food production through the protection of rural landscape and sustainable management and reproduction of natural resources often in disadvantaged areas; protection of traditions, preventing rural exodus and providing clear information to consumers concerning product characteristics and origin.
The upcoming GI review should
- Not undermine the EU GI system. GIs should remain a cornerstone of the EU agrifood and rural development policy, as well as of the EU trade policy. Under no circumstances, its management should be outsourced to an intellectual property agency as GIs are much more than an IP right.
- Enable GIs to enhance their contribution to quality and sustainability challenges
- Improve consumer information and awareness of GIs
- Improve PDO/PGI protection
- Support producers to ensure they can continue to do their work in a sustainable way, while having a decent livelihood