In 2017 EFOW will defend the specificity of the wine sector

Maintaining the specificity of the wine sector, preparing the CAP post-2020, protecting GIs at the international level… In 2017, the European federation of origin wines (EFOW) will be on the forefront to defend wine appellations. With a particularity for this new year: an increasingly complicated European context.

6 texts instead of 1. This is what the European Commission had proposed to simplify the EU wine legislation. This so-called “simplification” was denounced by EFOW last summer. The risk: the end of the wine sector’s specificity in EU texts and the integration of its measures in horizontal regulations with other agricultural products. “This meant the end of the wine support programme,” recalled Bernard Farges, President of EFOW “but we managed to mobilise the European Parliament and 17 Member States to oppose the Commission’s proposal“. Faced with this united front, Mr Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, was forced to announce that all the wine regulation would be brought together in a single text. Closed topic? “Some provisions of the simplification project are still problematic, such as the abolition of temporary labelling measure. This remains our number 1 priority for 2017” says Mr. Farges.

Preserving the temporary labelling measure

Among the problems raised by the draft text on the simplification of the wine legislation, the abolition of the temporary labelling measure is the most worrying. In the current regulation, amendments to a wine specification come into force as soon as they are published at the national level. The European Commission examines them ex post facto with the possibility of refusing a modification already validated at the national level and sometimes already “labelled” by producers. Hence the name temporary labelling. This provision has been deleted from the draft text. “Producers need to regularly modify their PDO/PGI specifications to adapt to new circumstances, technological advances, etc. Most of the time, it is simply a question of modifying a cultural practice or an oenological practice. Challenging this provision means lengthening the validation deadline with the risk of fossilising GIs! ” explains EFOW’s President. He adds that “this also means that there is a lack of trust of producers and Member States! “. It is important to underline that a validated modification to a wine specification is the result of a long debate among producers at the local level which is then submitted for validation to the competent national administration. Apparently, this is not enough for the Commission, which wants to have the power to validate an amendment. EFOW believes this is unacceptable, even more given the current downsizing context in Brussels, particularly in DG AGRI. So how does the Commission intend to manage a larger workload with fewer resources? “We fear in the long term that the management of the wine specifications will be entrusted to an external agency and that producers will need to pay to change their specifications,” warns Mr. Farges.

Preparing the future CAP in an uncertain context

Another major issue for EFOW is the CAP post-2020 negotiations, which will begin in an uncertain context. Brexit and the upcoming elections in France and Germany raise a lot of uncertainty, notably on the budget level allocated to the future CAP. The sector’s main concern is the wine support programme, a key issue for operators, as it allows the sector to finance investment or restructuring projects. “The Commission recently confirmed its willingness to extend these measures until 2023. This is good news. The maintenance of this measure will depend on the future budget of the CAP. It will be necessary to be strong and structured to put pressure on Member States and the European Parliament. We do not master all the elements but the sector has a role to play” analyses EFOW’s President. Another concern for producers of GI wines: preserving the system of vine planting authorisations. “If our sector works rather well, it is thanks to this regulatory tool. The temptations to liberalise are strong in Brussels, let’s not forget the planting rights dossier! We will need to fight to preserve our specificity” warned Mr. Farges.

Protecting GIs at the international level

EFOW is also active at the international level. It is working for the recognition of Geographical Indications (GIs) to be a priority of all trade agreements negotiated by the European Commission. For EFOW’s President “our names bring real added value and it is not acceptable to see companies in third countries taking advantage of the lack of protection of our names“. Strengthening their protection is therefore one of our main objectives. At the same time, we are defending the lowering of customs duties to facilitate the sale of our wines abroad. EFOW recently welcomed the work of the European Commission on CETA: European GIs are now fully protected in Canada and customs duties for the export of EU wines have been abolished. EFOW also supports the TTIP currently negotiated if all wine GIs are protected. Currently, 17 European names are considered “semi-generic” in the USA and can be used by American vintners with a local geographical name: Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine, Sauterne, Sherry and Tokay.