Revision of the EU geographical indications (GIs) systems in agricultural products and foodstuffs, wines and spirit drinks

In “A European Green Deal”

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On 31 March 2022, the European Commission put forward a legislative proposal on EU geographical indications for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products, and quality schemes for agricultural products.

A geographical indication (GI) is a distinctive sign used to identify a product whose quality, reputation or other such characteristics relate to its geographical origin. Geographical indications comprise of: PDO – Protected Designation of Origin (food and wine); PGI – Protected Geographical Indication (food and wine); GI – Geographical Indication (spirit drinks and aromatised wines). Products can also be protected under the traditional speciality guaranteed (TGS) quality scheme, used for food and agricultural products that are made in a traditional way, but that can be made anywhere and can use the name provided that they follow the registered recipe.

The Commission’s proposal included the following elements:

  • a single GI system for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products - Instead of each of  these sectors being governed by a separate piece of legislation, the proposed regulation would cover all of them, with the same rules applying to all; 
  • expanded role for the European Union Intellectual Property Organisation (EUIPO) - The EUIPO would be tasked with the administration of GIs, while the Commission would be empowered to adopt delegated acts to entrust EUIPO with a series of tasks, including as regards the scrutiny of applications, opposition procedure, operation of the register, etc.
  • increased online protection - The new legislation would increase the protection of GIs on the internet. Country-code top-level domain name registries established in the EU could, on the request, revoke or transfer a domain name registered to a recognised producer group;
  • sustainability undertakings - A producer group would be able to agree on social, environmental or economic sustainability requirements that would be added to product specifications. The Commission would be also empowered to adopt delegated acts defining sustainability standards in different sectors;
  • labelling of GI products as ingredients in processed foods - It would be banned to use, in the food name of the processed product, GI designating a product ingredient, except if an agreement with the producer group representing two thirds of the producers would be exist.

In Parliament, the dossier was assigned to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), with Paolo de Castro (S&D, Italy) as rapporteur. The Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) was associated committee under Rule 57 (rapporteur Adrián Vázquez Lázara, Renew, Spain). The AGRI Committee adopted the report on 20 April 2023, with the following elements:

  • the Commission would not be allowed to define sustainability standards in different sectors;
  • the deadline for the Commission’s scrutiny would be shortened to five months and could be extended by a maximum three additional months;
  • the Commission would not be allowed to entrust its tasks relating to scrutiny, opposition procedure, amendments, cancellation or the scrutiny of third-country GIs to the EUIPO. It could, however, empower the EUIPO to maintain and keep the EU electronic register of GIs up-to-date and to establish and manage an alert system monitoring the registration of domain names;
  • the name of a GI used as an ingredient in a processed product could be referred to in the food name only with an agreement in writing with a recognised producer group. A recognised producer group could lay down rules on the use of the GI products as ingredients, including by requesting a financial contribution.

On 1 June, Parliament adopted the mandate for negotiations and referred the matter back to the AGRI Committee.  

In the Council, the examination of the proposal took place in the Working Party on Horizontal Agricultural Questions (Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin) and the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA). On 8 May 2023, the SCA adopted a mandate detailing the Council position, with the following elements:

  • the EUIPO would not be allowed to have any role in the process of the registration, amendments or cancellation of GIs. The Commission would not be able to task the EUIPO with operating the EU register, nor to set up a domain name information and alert system;
  • the Commission would not be allowed to define sustainability standards in different sectors;
  • a GI used as an ingredient could be used in the name of the processed product under certain conditions. The producer would not be required to seek a written permission to use the GI ingredient in the name of the product from the producer group, but would only have to notify a recognised producer group, if it exists;

Trilogues started in June 2023. During the fourth trilogue, on 24 October, the co-legislators reached an agreement: 

  • the Commission will remain the sole scrutiniser of GIs system and the EUIPO will be allowed to only provide it with technical assistance on merely administrative issues;
  • domain names using GIs illegally will have to be removed or access to them will have to be disabled. The EUIPO could be asked to set up a domain name alert system for this purpose.
  • processors who use a GI ingredient will be allowed to use the GI in the name of their processed product, if the ingredient is used in sufficient quantities and the recognised producer group is given a prior notification;
  • producer groups will get more rights and recognition; they will be able to prevent or counter any measures or commercial practices that are detrimental to the image and value of their products, develop tourism services in their production area and prepare sustainability reports describing their sustainable practices.

The agreed text was confirmed by the COREPER on 27 November 2023 and by the AGRI Committee on 11 December. Parliament adopted the text on 28 February 2024. The text still needs to be adopted by the Council before it is signed into law.

References:

Further reading:

Author: Nikolina Šajn, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu 

As of 20/03/2024.