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A6-0033/2006

Debates :

PV 15/03/2006 - 14
CRE 15/03/2006 - 14

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PV 16/03/2006 - 9.2
CRE 16/03/2006 - 9.2
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P6_TA(2006)0094

Debates
Wednesday, 15 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. Agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed – Protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (debate)
PV
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

– the report by Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the proposal for a Council regulation on agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed (COM(2005)0694 – C6-0026/2006 – 2005/0270(CNS) (A6-0033/2006), and

– the report by Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (COM(2005)0698 – C6-0027/2006 – 2005/0275(CNS)) (A6-0034/2006).

I should like to remind speakers in this debate of what I said for the previous one, namely that this is a very long late-night sitting and that I shall therefore be ruthless when it comes to speaking time. Please understand, therefore, if I have to take disciplinary action to keep you to the time officially allocated to you to speak. This remark naturally does not apply to Mrs Kroes, to whom I now give the floor.

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I want to start by thanking Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf and the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for all the work they have carried out on both reports, the first on protection of geographical indications and designations of origin and the second on traditional specialities guaranteed.

The Commission appreciates the efficient organisation of your work, which has enabled adoption of the reports within a short period of time. In my opening statement I address both reports, thereby focusing on the general background that has led to these Commission proposals.

Firstly, as regards the report on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin, almost 14 years ago the European Community established a voluntary system of geographical indications for agricultural products and foodstuffs other than wines and spirits. Since 1993, over 700 names have been registered. Almost 300 requests are currently waiting for registration; this gives an idea of the success of this system.

This success may explain the interest shown by our trade partners in this regulation. The conclusions of the recent WTO panels on cases brought by the US and Australia impose on us the obligation to open the Community scheme to direct applications and objections from individuals in third countries.

This is the fundamental reason for the proposal you have on the table: to ensure conformity with the conclusions of the panels. On the basis of experience gained in managing the registration process, we realised that the current system would not survive an additional burden of direct applications from operators in third countries. Thus we had to streamline the system and make it more efficient.

If we simply conform to WTO rules without increasing the efficiency of the functioning of the system, the whole approval process could come to a standstill. I should add that, in order to avoid any risk of a new complaint at WTO level, the procedure for third-country and EU denominations should be as similar as possible.

We have all been surprised by the extent of the changes required under the WTO ruling. While the Community won the panel on the substantive trademark issue, we lost on the procedural questions. We also included one clear policy change, namely promoting the use of Community logos for enhancing the credibility of the system. Apart from that, however, there are no policy initiatives, as the primary purpose of the proposal is to conform to the WTO panel findings within the deadline.

The many demands and suggestions for policy development set out in the amendments adopted in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development are issues that deserve more time to be adequately addressed.

Let me turn now to the other proposal, which concerns traditional specialities guaranteed. In spite of the modest number of products registered, some producers have shown their interest in this regulation. There are only 50 names registered as traditional specialities guaranteed, but there are 19 applications pending at Community level and a number of others under examination in the Member States. This regulation has not been amended since its adoption in 1992. The procedures have been designed neither for 25 nor for 27 Member States, or for handling a significant number of applications.

There is a similar need to streamline and standardise the content of applications so that more efficient procedures are adopted and so that producers who make the effort to engage in quality schemes are not disappointed by approvals being delayed for several years.

I also consider it important to correct a number of inconsistencies and to reflect substantial advances in legal drafting standards since 1992. At the same time, we propose simplifications and clarifications and other improvements identical to those proposed for geographical indications and designations of origin.

Finally, we are keen to make it clear in this regulation that WTO rules are respected and to forestall any criticism.

In conclusion, these proposals achieve WTO conformity and introduce limited but necessary housekeeping that is designed to streamline and clarify procedures. We can thereby underpin the mechanisms and better serve producers and consumers who rely on denominations. However, particularly in the light of the WTO deadline of 3 April 2006, we did not propose deeper policy changes. Those will be addressed in due course within the framework of a wide reflection on agricultural quality policy.

 
  
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  Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (Verts/ALE), rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, I am glad that the Commissioner is here to represent the Commission at today’s debate on this report. Her colleague, Commissioner Fischer Boel, cannot be present, but that should not prevent us from making this a good discussion.

The Commissioner said that this is not the beginning of a legislative process, but that we are just responding to a request from the WTO. The beginnings of a legislative framework for quality assurance came in 1992, as much as 14 years ago, but, of course, that was not the start of high-quality production in the areas that were protected at that time. It was rather the case that, as with organic farming, the matter of the products at issue here had been introduced onto the market long ago, over a period of decades, by producers, and proceeded to gain consumer acceptance. There then followed harmonisation and streamlining measures, clarifications and safeguards.

With regard to quality policy, there are only two areas within agriculture that are designated ‘quality’. These are the area under discussion today, and organic farming. Everything else is covered by the concept of food safety. Here, however, we are talking about and focusing on quality, in particular.

As the Commissioner has already mentioned, this is no trifling matter, it is a billion-euro business. Granting regions and businesses protection of geographical indications, designations of origin or specialities creates genuine added value. It is understandable that others will covet this added value.

The dispute is with the United States, in particular – and when I say United States, I mean the large multinationals. These are looking very carefully at whether the products now being protected here as designations of origin can perhaps be incorporated into their empires as trademarks. In exactly the same way as Coca-Cola, they want to include Feta cheese, Parmesan, Spreewälder Gurken (Spreewald Gherkins), Karlsbader Oblaten (Karlsbad Wafers), Thüringer Rostbratwurst, and also Tiroler Speck – from both Austria and South Tyrol (Südtiroler Speck) – with their trademarks; not because they consider them particularly good, but because there is money to be made from them. That is why they, too, have joined the discussion in the WTO, and now we are presenting our response.

The good thing about the discussion is that the WTO has said from the outset, as a matter of principle, that our rules are in accordance with its own rules. What is not in accordance with its rules, and where improvements need to be made, is the issue of third country access to these protected quality indications. We are making good this shortcoming, and I also think that this makes sense.

I should also like to point out, however, that another kind of desire also comes to the fore here. For example, producers of Parma ham or Tiroler Speck may think to themselves: if we were to buy the pigs on the wider market, it would be cheaper than having to produce them in the region or stipulating that the regions from which we obtain them be specifically geared towards such production – because this would naturally mean an increase in production costs.

If we do not do that, however, we run the risk, in the international discussions within the WTO – and the multinationals will keep on and on at us about it – of lapsing into arbitrariness, of undermining our own quality indications and thus ultimately losing the protection. This being the case, it would be a highly dubious business to believe it is possible to buy raw materials at cheaper prices, and that is why we have stipulated and are stipulating that there be a special relationship between the regions in this regard.

By way of conclusion, I should like to say a few words of a procedural nature. As the Commissioner is also aware, the Council has already made a decision. We are once again holding a discussion here despite the fact that everything has already been decided, and that is unacceptable. The matter has to be debated first. I hope that we can also make that clear in the Constitution once it has been ratified.

We considered referring this matter back to committee out of pure annoyance, because, once again, we have been overlooked and our expert work is being ignored. However, we believe that this would project an outward lack of unity on our part in the WTO proceedings, and enable others to say: aha, they are not even agreed among themselves. Since we are in favour of strengthening and securing the EU position, we shall let it pass, but we should like to make clear where the Council’s weaknesses lie in some regards, and would ask Commissioner Kroes to communicate that in her role as Commissioner, so that she reconsiders her decisions.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Giuseppe Castiglione, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the subject of geographical indications and of traditional specialities for agricultural products and foodstuffs is an important instrument for the development and sustainability of quality products.

On the whole, I consider the work carried out by the Commission to be very positive. Given that two phases of analysis of the question had been foreseen, one on a national and one on a Community level, it was absolutely necessary to make sure they were coordinated.

I am convinced that the greater responsibilities given by the Member States, the precise terms articulating the procedure and the new system of oppositions, address the need for faster and more efficient recognition, that is to say for a quick check that is also endowed with the crucial characteristic of completeness.

The opportunity for third countries to access the European system for the protection of agricultural products makes it necessary to protect the consumer from a false association between Community symbols and the actual origin of a product. The indication of the origin of a product on a label, along with the diversification of the colour of Community logos and the authorisation of the use of expressions for processed products, are all innovations that address the need for greater protection of consumers. Furthermore, I believe that these measures will encourage producers to take greater and fuller advantage of the labelling of excellent products by following the approach to food quality that the European Union promotes.

Lastly, I support Amendments 48 and 50, which are aimed at allowing the involvement of regional authorities in the national checking phase and greater protection of the protected designation of origin (PDO) and the protected geographical indication (PGI) with respect to other forms of protection like trademarks. I hope that my fellow Members will share this point of view by approving these two amendments tomorrow.

Finally, I wish to thank the Commission, which has put this before Parliament, in which regard I also pick up what my fellow Member said earlier, for these procedures and for their recognition of the production of quality products. They have addressed a widespread need for fast action, but also, and above all, the protection of the excellence of rural areas in Europe.

 
  
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  María Isabel Salinas García, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, as the rapporteur has said quite rightly, I believe that quality is European agriculture’s great asset.

In view of the global market in which we increasingly have to compete, as a result of extremely low labour costs, scant environmental and hygiene requirements – in other words, lower prices – I believe that quality must set us apart. We therefore need guaranteed and certified quality by means of a simpler and easily recognisable system in which the consumers have confidence, both inside and outside of Europe – and that is what we are working on.

Furthermore, it is essential that these denominations are recognised outside of the Union, in the WTO, so that we can establish a market in high-quality agricultural products. We are working on that, and I believe that the work that has been done in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development supports this position.

The first challenge facing us is to strengthen our system of consumers and producers even further. We need a faster system, with clearly defined time periods and procedures, in which competences are properly allocated. I believe that the way the sector itself perceives it is as important as the way the consumers perceive it, and it must be shown the economic advantages of a high-quality market: the security of a system of denomination which properly controls the products that do not comply with the conditions set, and a quick and not too burdensome procedure.

I believe that the issue that we are dealing with is very important, particularly for countries such as my own, which are pioneers of ecological agriculture. As I have said, I believe that this issue deserves more in-depth consideration, and we must do this once the requirements of the WTO – and this must happen as soon as possible – have been complied with, simplifying access to the system for third-country products.

During the subsequent examination and reflection that we will hold in this House, I believe that it is essential to listen to the sector and to be attentive to its needs, thinking at all times of directing our products and our quality towards the global market, these being the values of a truly competitive European agri-food sector.

 
  
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  Jan Mulder, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Mr President, Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf has once again done his duty as rapporteur with his usual enthusiasm, and on that I should like to congratulate him. I concur with the thrust of his conclusions. In the light of increasing liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, it is necessary for us to recognise more geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs at international level. His conclusions are completely justified therefore.

What also comes into play for me is what precisely the definition of a geographical indication in Europe itself is. Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf mentioned the example of Parma ham, that that should originate in that region. I have always been puzzled by the fact that Germany, rather than the Netherlands, is the largest producer of Edam cheese, and I believe that that state of affairs should change.

If we regulate this in the WTO – and I am pleased that he sees eye to eye with me on this – and we ask the others to recognise our products, it seems only natural to me that we also recognise theirs. I am not entirely of the same mind as Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf when he says that at present, there are only two quality categories of agricultural products in the European Union, namely those with geographical indications and those that are produced organically. Whilst this may be true at the moment, we must go much further.

It is necessary to introduce a European quality mark for agricultural products. If we ask our farmers to respect animal welfare standards, environmental objectives, and suchlike, then it would be very unfair to expect those farmers to compete with the rest of the world, with farmers who do not need to adhere to those same standards. Since customers must be able to distinguish them in the shops, we must develop a quality mark for products other than geographical and organic ones.

 
  
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  Daniel Strož, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, on the topic of a proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs, I would like to draw attention to something that is said in the Graefe zu Baringdorf report, namely that intellectual property is the last raw material remaining to Europeans. It is precisely for this reason that we may express wonder and regret over the fact that we have so far had no targeted plan for developing a system specifically for the protection of intellectual property. The new instrument should finally eliminate the persistent disputes at the WTO between the EU and some of its trading partners. Once this matter has been resolved, we can only hope that the Commission will then return to the issue of geographical indications and designations of origin with clear conceptual aims.

I would like to add that designations of origin and geographical indications constitute an integral component of intellectual property, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Under the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, the issue of intellectual property belongs unambiguously and exclusively to the remit of the Committee on Legal Affairs. It is therefore odd both from a procedural and a practical viewpoint that the drafting of this report was entrusted to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, without including in it even an opinion from the Committee on Legal Affairs.

 
  
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  Witold Tomczak, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, the aims of both proposals for regulations seem well-founded. It is difficult not to support an increase in the income of farmers, fair conditions for competition and protection from fake copies of original products. There are, however, doubts as to whether the aims set are realistic.

Let us consider the result to date of existing solutions. Within the framework of guaranteed, traditional specialities only 15 agricultural and food products have so far been registered throughout the Union. Is it really necessary to create complex procedures and expand bureaucracy for the benefit of a dozen or a few dozen products? Will the farmer-producer really gain anything by it? Within the framework of the system for the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin over 700 names have been registered across the EU including 150 cheeses, 160 types of meat or meat products, 150 types of fruit and vegetables and 80 types of olive oil. There are 300 new applications pending examination. By creating this legislation, will we not soon find ourselves in a ridiculous position, bordering on the laughable? In a few years we will have thousands of original product names wanting to conquer supermarkets across the whole of the EU. As customers, we will be worn down by them and the costly bureacratic system will turn out to be inefficient when dealing with applications.

Would it not be better to give up the idea of regulating local delicacies? If we turn delicacies into mass products, they will no longer be delicacies. Let them remain a natural attraction of particular places or regions, but without the support of the European Union.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, on behalf of the UEN Group I would like to congratulate Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf on his excellent reports. I am delighted that we will achieve the necessary simplifications in the registration procedures for local food produce and that we will have more of these products available, or rather that they will be more familiar to us, as we are of course talking about traditional products that have been on the market for a long time.

The real future of Europe lies in supporting traditional, regional products which represent the achievements of local communities. It is something at which we can excel, at which we can surpass others and thanks to which we can build a European market that is a common market and yet is rich thanks to the variety of regional specialities. It is a great opportunity for regional producers. Most of all, however, it is good news for consumers as these products are made according to traditional recipes and using methods that go back generations and are healthier and better than mass-produced goods. It is also the best way to face the challenge presented by biotechnology companies. They want to force us to consume their mass-produced food which is the result of genetic engineering.

We should be clear on this matter. We want to consume products that are healthy, varied and produced using traditional, regional methods, and we do not want to be forced to consume food products made using methods that cheat nature.

 
  
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  Jan Tadeusz Masiel (NI). – (PL) Mr President, for the last few decades the common agricultural policy has encouraged farmers to produce more, regardless of quality. As a result, they have two Mercedes in the yard and shops are full of produce which is neither palatable nor cheap. We have to pay more for so-called ‘organic’ products in order to buy what should be normal food.

It is cynical to say that consumers today regard quality as more important than quantity. They simply want to eat food once again that they have not seen for a long time and to which they have a right. We, meanwhile, are spending most of our budget on the common agricultural policy, mainly in the old Member States.

Let us hope that, by simplifying the current procedures, these regulations relating to the protection of geographical indications, designations of origin and traditional specialities will favour farmers who produce healthy and tasty produce.

I would like to thank the Commission and the rapporteur for addressing this important issue. I hope that farmers, especially those from the new Member States who have not yet had the time or money to take up agricultural production on an industrial scale, will be rewarded for their traditional production methods. We do not have such splendid processing methods as those for which French cuisine is renowned, but we do have healthy, tasty farm produce and food.

 
  
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  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, there is no need for me to spell out how much we value our system of protected geographical indications (PGO) and protected designations of origin (PDO) and how keen we are to defend them and ensure compliance with them, within and outside the Union.

As things stand, following the repeated and, to my mind, all-too-frequent reforms of the common agricultural policy, producers in many of our regions only survive on account of the quality of their products and their expertise. Happily, consumers are increasingly appreciative of this and are prepared to pay reasonable prices, thereby helping to keep people in work up- and downstream and, in turn, contributing to rural development.

It has been well documented that the United States and Australia had the nerve to attack our successful regulation on the issue at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Over 700 product designations have been registered since 1993, the commercial value of which is put at over EUR 10 billion. I feel I should mention at this point the registration of Tiroler Speck, which Mr Ebner, who has given me his two minutes of speaking time in this debate, holds especially dear.

The WTO’s competent body has fortunately come to the conclusion that our regulation was not in breach of WTO rules. All we have to do is adapt it by 20 April – there is no time to waste, in other words – so as to place third country nationals on an equal footing with EU citizens as regards the application procedure and the right to object.

I wish to congratulate our rapporteur, Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf, and to commend him on the excellent spirit of collaboration, which is not always in evidence between factions across the political divide in Parliament. I welcome the fact that – with Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf and with other luminaries of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, including the chairman, Mr Daul – we have succeeded in reaching agreement on amendments aimed at clarifying and simplifying matters and at making them more specific, as well as at ensuring respect, via adequate monitoring, for this intellectual property of our farmers, which is one of the last raw materials possessed by Europeans.

What we especially want to do – by means of specific deadlines: six months for the Commission to examine applications, four months to raise objections – is to avoid there being damaging delays for the operators involved. We want to see Community symbols, our logos, distinguished by specific colours and to ensure that these are not used by third countries. Lastly, we wish to ensure that if the registration of a PDO or PGI is cancelled, it cannot be registered as a trade mark for five years. This is to prevent any economic pressure being put on producers.

I know that many Members of this Chamber have had many ideas and suggestions for improving the law, but we would call on the Council, as time is ticking away, to implement initially only the changes made necessary by the WTO’s ruling. According to ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Bogdan Golik (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on two excellent reports. I would also like to express my conviction that it is precisely these new regulations adopted by Parliament that will further the development of agricultural food production, and in particular the revitalisation of rural areas by promoting their traditions and cultural values and increasing employment outside of the farming sector. I think that a transparent and simplified registration procedure and a clear division of competences between the Member States and the Commission will provide more effective protection for consumers and producers, citizens of the Union and, most of all, for those who manufacture these products. They will be protected from fake copies, the misuse of original names, the copying of lists of ingredients and other fraudulent practices used by people looking to make a quick profit.

The proposed regulations do indeed contribute to guaranteeing a credible system to protect the quality of registered products which are trusted and whose popularity is growing in the Union and across the world. These products will now not only feature the producer’s label but also the label of the European Union.

 
  
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  Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe must be in a position to guarantee and protect the quality of its agricultural and food production. In order to achieve this objective it is necessary to defend traditional specialities and geographical indications, even against attacks launched from inside the World Trade Organisation by the United States and Australia.

The rapporteur has done an excellent job to improve the two regulations. We need to protect products in order to have a real impact on improving food safety and prevent the homogenisation of flavour, which is occurring on a global scale. All too often, sadly, we find examples of counterfeiting: the largest market in southern Italy, Vittoria in Sicily, is every day flooded with counterfeit products that are put on the market as protected geographical indication products, for example Pachino cherry tomatoes.

For this reason, we believe that labelling is needed to reveal the indication of the place of origin and processing of a product. We must question ourselves, however, over one matter: all too often those in favour of the PDO and PGI scheme are more concerned with commercialisation than with production.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur for helping to protect regional individuality and rural self-sufficiency.

Europe has such rich and varied produce and food, and we certainly need to protect that from trade liberalisation absolutists. The family recipe, the local flavour, the hand-made product, the quality and unique character need our protection to keep our regions as rich as they are now.

But what use will all this valuable work be if, concurrently, we allow GM to infiltrate our crops, and thus our food and produce? Here we are trying to protect the individuality of products and the uniqueness of local ingredients. How can we claim that our ingredients are local if they are all modified in a laboratory? Those seeds are certainly not your family's variation; they are an identikit Monsanto seed of a particular batch number, exactly the same seed as millions of others around the globe.

How can we then claim that our products are unique, that they are our rich regional flavour, or that they are from our region at all? Would honesty not require us to label our produce as 'Monsanto Corporation, produced in St Louis, Missouri'? We must allow regions to choose whether they wish to be GM and we must protect those which do not.

We must not only appreciate and preserve local specialities but also the farmers' markets at which they are still sometimes locally sold. We must ensure that, in regulating food marketing, we do not kill off the remaining traditional local farmers' markets.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, it is fortunate that we are holding a joint debate on Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf’s reports. In one of the reports, in point 5 of the justification, the text reads that ‘the aim of the proposals is to simplify the procedure and to provide an accurate definition of the remits of the different bodies during the examination process for the proposal’. This, along with other annotations, such as those under point 9, gives us hope that in the final Council regulations we will be able to avoid red tape and legal inconsistencies. This is particularly important with regard to the regulation on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs. We have to remember that geographical indications are part of the heritage of certain local communities and individual nations and that they are responsible for protecting them.

The protection of geographical indications and designations of origin of foodstuffs at a Community level should only fulfil a supporting function and prevent dishonest practices. However, ‘only national bodies shall have the authority’ to impose penalties at a national level, as stated in Article 11(3).

Regional products and foodstuffs have to support regional development and broaden the range of tourist attractions, including agro-tourism. No one wants a Union where everyone everywhere dresses the same, eats the same food and speaks in the same manner.

 
  
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  James Hugh Allister (NI). – Mr President, I welcome these reports because protecting regional specialities is right and necessary. Regions have a right to exploit and protect such specialities for their own economic benefit.

I note that it is estimated that, in those Member States where this is done, around EUR 5 billion a year is raised, in terms of added value, by promoting such geographical indications. Of course, there is also a knock-on effect in terms of impact and job creation and in population retention in rural areas.

My sole regret is that, to date, my region – Northern Ireland – has not yet availed itself of this facility, though I would have to say, biased as I am, that we are rich in such commodities.

Ulster beef, which all Europeans will soon be able to savour again when the beef ban is lifted, has a taste and quality which makes it renowned and which caused the Greenfield label to be synonymous with the highest quality. Our wheaten and soda breads are must-taste delicacies and Armagh Bramley apples have a very distinct reputation.

I would therefore call on the British Government in this debate to avail itself forthwith of the opportunities available under these regulations.

In terms of these regulations, a complaint which I have encountered is that the process of application is unduly burdensome and bureaucratic. I would therefore make a plea that the maximum effort should be made to simplify the process so that regional products may be protected and promoted more swiftly, and I welcome what the Commissioner had to say in that regard.

In the context of the WTO, it is vital that Europe defends the rights accrued under those regulations and does not give in to the pressures coming from third countries. I agree strongly with our rapporteur that the EU must use all its clout and diplomatic skill to defend geographical indications. Whilst we should take encouragement from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body's rejection of recent attacks by the United States and Australia, we cannot afford any sense of complacency.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, should like to join in thanking the rapporteur for his really excellent reports, and also the shadow rapporteurs for their very efficient cooperation on this.

I regard both of these reports as among the very important dossiers of this parliamentary term: particularly the report on protected geographical indications and protected designations of origin. As the Commissioner mentioned, there are already over 700 products that have been registered and 300 procedures that have been commenced. That represents a key aspect as far as European agriculture and rural areas are concerned.

I believe that intellectual property is also relevant to these products, and that these products, as it were, contribute towards the identity of a region. If we open up our markets to products from third countries, we must be able to make this conditional on these countries applying the same standards in terms of quality and social aspects as prevail within the EU. The fact is that we are living in a global world, but nevertheless fair competition can only be afforded if the same requirements and rules apply within the WTO and are put into practice.

Generally speaking, however, we must take care that the procedure involves careful scrutiny, and that there is no levelling down. Quality has its price. As Horst Köhler, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, said yesterday, the EU’s higher prices must be matched by superiority in quality. To cite an example, in Austria, there are 180 000 farmers engaged in production. These demonstrably safeguard approximately 600 000 jobs upstream and downstream. This also reveals how important active farming enterprises and family-run farms engaged in production are to rural areas.

 
  
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  Robert Navarro (PSE).(FR) Mr President, I should first like to congratulate the rapporteur and my fellow members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on this report, one of the strong points of which is that it emphasises a key concept, which is that Europe’s farming will only survive on the basis of quality. Consequently, at the heart of any political measure taken by the EU, not least in international fora such as the World Trade Organisation, must be the defence of labels and other protected designations, as this is the only way of guaranteeing the sustainable competitiveness of European products in a globalised world.

I personally come from a region that has more than 30 products registered under the protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI) and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) schemes. These designations are without question an asset for the producers who benefit from them. It is a similar idea to one we have always used in another sector, which does not fall under the scope of this text but which requires support and protection from Europe. I refer, of course, to the winemaking sector, which accounts for tens of thousands of jobs in my region, southern France, and hundreds of thousands of jobs around Europe, and which is currently enduring a major crisis. If nothing is done, including at European level, there is a danger that Europe will lose its soul.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, today we are discussing how to protect traditional, speciality agricultural products.

The regulation mentions the time scale of a single generation of production required in order for a product to qualify as a product that is produced using traditional methods. Concerns have been raised regarding the amendment which restricts the definition to products that were in use before World War II. This discriminates against Eastern European Countries.

As a consequence of World War II, Poland lost half of its territory and several million people were displaced to lands that had been regained. Therefore, the continuity of tradition was broken. During Communist rule, production of traditional products for trading purposes was also banned. Only for the past decade or so, after independence was regained, have communities in specific regions returned to traditional, healthy production methods for foodstuffs, for example traditional Polish sausages and hams. This had previously been impossible.

Another extremely important question is the issue of certainty regarding whether foodstuffs will be sufficiently monitored with respect to quality and whether a situation can be avoided where the increasing supply of genetically modified plants across Europe leads to traditional products becoming tainted. There are, after all, countries in Europe where genetically modified plants have spread beyond all control and will certainly soon threaten traditional products because of the change in the ingredients list. The annexed register of products classed as traditional products should also be expanded to include delicatessen goods.

 
  
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  María Esther Herranz García (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, the report on designations of origin and geographical indications presented to us by the Commission states that its intention in drawing it up has been to clarify procedures and to bring Community legislation into line with a judgment of the World Trade Organisation.

The protection of geographical indications is naturally extremely important. It is essential in order to provide consumers with accurate information concerning the quality, origin and production methods of the products they consume. It therefore seems logical that we should avoid confusing consumers, and the use of the Community logo on third-country products should not therefore be authorised.

Furthermore, the Members of this House have an obligation to the diversity and wealth of European gastronomic heritage, which has so far enjoyed an international reputation.

We must conform to the judgment of the tribunal of the World Trade Organisation − there is no question about that; that is what it is for − and we must modify the Regulation in order to guarantee that it complies with those requirements.

Nevertheless, until the WTO includes in its debate the international system of geographical indications and thus until we have an international register of geographical indications, it does not make much sense for the modifications of our Community Regulation to go any further than is strictly necessary.

Furthermore, we must ensure that the changes to the Regulation do not lead to delays in the register or lead to discrimination between the European Union and third countries, because the procedure for Community authorisation demands compliance with very strict quality and food safety requirements. Would the Commission be able to ensure that third-country products conform to those same standards? In all honesty, I do not believe so.

I therefore believe that the amendment from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats should be supported and I also believe that the differing views on health systems amongst the Member States must ensure that the farmers and producers are not the only ones who have to pay for the extension of the legislation on food hygiene to designations of origin.

 
  
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  Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos (PSE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should also like to congratulate our rapporteur. The establishment of the protected designation of origin (PDO), the protected geographical indication (PGI) and the traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) is a step in the right direction for the development of rural areas. It will help both to preserve natural and cultural heritage, and to extend the range of high-quality products to a growing number of demanding and well-informed consumers.

I can bear witness to this from the experience of my country, in which more than 100 products have become subject to these arrangements, and most of them have registered reasonable commercial success. In some cases, the success of the market represents both the rehabilitation of indigenous breeds that had been heading for extinction and of operating methods which would otherwise have been seriously at risk or would have disappeared.

The thrust of the proposals before us will help to enhance the existing regulatory framework and bring it into line with WTO rules, with which we wish to comply. I wish to underline that clearer identification of Community symbols by means of colouring, identification of the origin and place of processing of products from third countries, and the fact that the Commission’s decision was upheld, render the process more credible and will lead to cheaper prices and less bureaucracy.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Mr President, before I address the subject of today’s debate, it is important that I record in this House the fact that the Irish sugar industry will cease production totally. The announcement was made today in Ireland. When we talk about the WTO, Ireland is their first casualty in terms of sugar beet production. Three hundred workers will lose their jobs and 3 500 farmers will be very badly affected. Is this the warning sign of what lies ahead, as the power of the WTO to shape our agriculture in Europe intensifies? If sugar beet is sacrificed today, as it has been in Ireland, what about EU beef farming tomorrow?

With regard to this report, I thank the rapporteur for his good work. However, I fear that we sometimes talk about this issue with great intensity – as we should – but ignore the bigger picture of commodity production in the European Union, which also needs protection.

I regret that in Ireland we have only three products that are registered under the PGI description, but we have many hundreds of small food companies that could take the protection offered by these regulations. I would urge them to do so. We will need more and more speciality products if we are to meet the challenges in terms of the reform of the CAP and the pressures of the WTO. We need to recognise that the continuation of food production in Europe depends on a commitment to the sector and a recognition that it cannot be expected to survive the onslaught of unlimited market access by low-cost commodities produced outside the Union at different and lower standards.

By all means let us protect and encourage those who want to produce speciality foods, but let us also recognise that EU agriculture produces high-specification commodities which are also in need of protection.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (PSE).(FR) Mr President, I must first add my tribute to the rapporteur, Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf, for his remarkable work aimed at providing better information and better protection for producers, manufacturers and consumers. His report managed, on the one hand, to steer clear of conservative protectionism, and, on the other, to show recognition and respect for our expertise. This will not please everyone, however, and the best proof of this is the firm line taken in the United States and Australia, which want geographical indications only to be admitted under exceptional circumstances and are seeking to have them restricted to certain wines and spirits.

The EU must do all it can to defend these geographical indications and must use all its diplomatic acumen, especially in the forthcoming negotiations on the transposition of the Hong Kong decisions. Geographical indications are an excellent way of delivering a qualitative approach to international trade. Unfortunately, there has not been a single sign of the geographical indications being sustainably enshrined at the WTO. The Commission must be capable of playing an important role in this respect. We need to be aware that quality and recognition bring hope for the future of Europe’s farming.

 
  
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  Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I am obliged to my fellow Members, and should like to pass on some of this great praise to my collaborators. Mr Mulder, I was also pleased with your contribution. We agree with each other in substance, but I am also pleased that you have praised my commitment. Of course, we are both now getting on a bit and have been in this business a long time; yet we are still concerned with things, we have not tired of fighting for what we think is right. When you complain that there are only two types of quality indication, I share your criticism. This must be extended; we must not only afford safety in the sense that people will not die from eating something, but also respect pleasure in eating, as well as quality, origin and the endeavours of generations.

This combination of free-market economy and quality assurance is exactly what we need. Market orientation is a good thing, of course, but it needs to be combined with an appreciation of what is being achieved here. In reply to the question a little while ago as to whether this is a purely administrative matter, I can only say: no, it is not an administrative matter, it is a system developed over generations that is now being given legislative and administrative safeguards. That is rather different from having something imposed on us.

If there were no benefit to be gained from this, we would not be having this discussion within the WTO. It is natural that the multinationals are keeping a watchful eye on the added value being created here – and that is considerable. Among us, Ireland – of which I have now twice heard mention – has unfortunately yet to set a good example, and I would urge it to encourage those of its regions manufacturing products in this way to submit a request. There must be no omissions in this regard. This is one aspect of the information that we, Parliament included, are able to provide.

I should also like to mention the cooperation with Mrs Lulling. She may not be the eldest, but she is the longest-serving among us. Anyone who has worked with her knows that this is not always an easy task. This is not only to do with political orientation, but also with Mrs Lulling as a person. Nevertheless, we have managed to table joint amendments in some fields. I should like to mention some of the particularly important of those here.

For some obscure reason, the Council has introduced a provision that any natural or legal person having a legitimate interest can have a registration of a designation of origin or of a special quality indication cancelled. Indeed, since we are talking about added value here, the desire to transform this into trademarks will naturally arise. To show that we are not carrying out a commercial activity here, we have tabled a joint amendment. I would ask the Commission to really ensure that the Council incorporates this.

If a protected designation is cancelled, it cannot be transformed into a trademark for a period of five years. This gives us some leeway, and makes it that little bit more expensive for those who wish to transform designations into trademarks and are offering the people or the regions something in return. We must proceed very carefully in such situations. I hope that the Commissioner will take this further. I should like to express my sincere thanks for such a constructive discussion here today.

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the rapporteur has received flowers from quite a number of honourable Members and, on behalf of the Commission, I should like to add a couple of flowers to the bouquet. Thank you again for the interesting exchange of views. Let me comment on some of the points raised during this debate.

As a general comment – Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf and Mr Castiglione touched upon this point – I should like to stress again that with these proposals the Commission wants to bring our legislation into conformity with the findings of the WTO panels. This includes numerous aspects of the procedure and elements of simplification, so the system can support the implementation of the WTO findings. That was a point mentioned by Mr Allister and, in my opinion, it addresses his concerns.

In response to Mr Mulder, I reiterate the intention of the Commission to further review the various policy issues not related to the WTO findings and the wider issue of the agricultural quality policy in the EC over the next year. I have learnt a lot this evening, including the point Mr Mulder made about Edam cheese. I should explain to Mr Mulder that Edam is a type of cheese that can be produced anywhere. It is a Codex standard. However, North Holland Edam is protected, and that is a Dutch quality product. So eat more Edam from North Holland!

Let me comment in more detail on the exchange of views and address some of the issues you have raised. Concerning the logos, the three logos established by Commission rules are already different from one another. I also want to make it clear that any advantage given to EC producers – and I believe the use of a Community symbol is such an advantage – will be equally open to third country producers. That answer is for Mr Castiglione and Mrs Herranz García. However, the Commission agrees that this needs to be further explored. This will be done within the framework of the wider policy review, which the Commission intends to conduct as soon as this proposal has been implemented.

Several amendments deal with the obligations of the Member States and the Commission, which Mr Podkański mentioned. The Commission has no intention of altering the current distribution of competence between the Member States and the Commission.

Amendments 23 and 24 ask for a time period for the Commission to scrutinise and publish applications. I agree that the Commission should carry out its duties within a reasonable period of time. Mrs Lulling and Mrs Salinas García touched upon that. I agree that we should take into account the definition of a reasonable period of time, which is not easy, given the complexity of applications. It is certainly not realistic to have all the applications scrutinised and published in six months; twelve months would be more acceptable.

Your amendments on controls reflect the aim of the Commission proposal, which is to ensure that there is a clear understanding that all over the EC there are authorities in charge of enforcing the Community rules on geographical indications and traditional specialities. There is also no doubt that these controls will be carried out within the framework of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law.

There are points that concern only the geographical indications report that I want to mention. These are the use of ingredients in processed products and the origin of raw materials. I confirm that your proposals concerning the use of protected names in relation to ingredients for processed products meet some of the Commission’s concerns. However, the general rules on labelling already cover cases of misleading information. Further restrictions on the use of registered names for processed products would mean a major policy change that deserves to be adequately and thoroughly assessed.

I took note of various amendments concerning the labelling of origin or other conditions applicable to raw materials. The Commission shares Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf’s objective that people should not be misled in this respect. However, we have to be very prudent. Any policy change in this field may affect rights already granted to users of certain designations.

Finally, I shall make a few points on the TSG report. The current regulation on traditional specialities guaranteed has no definition for the term ‘traditional’. We propose to introduce the obligation to prove usage for a time period of at least 25 years. We believe that this is a good compromise.

As a result, the Commission can in principle accept the following amendments in the report on geographical indications: Amendments 1, 10, 11, 15, 25, 29 and 31. Of the last-minute amendments tabled for this part-session, the Commission can in principle accept Amendments 41, 43, 49 and 54. In the report on traditional specialities, it can accept Amendments 6, 10, 13 and 16. The Commission cannot accept the other amendments to these reports.

 
  
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  President. – The joint debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

 
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