A speech by Jean-Paul Bachy - Wednesday 7 November 2012
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Today’s event constitutes an important stage in the necessary mobilization against the abolition of plantation rights. At the last International Congress of the AREV in Turin, on 11 May 2012, I suggested that we organize this action. Of course we didn’t wait until this autumn to announce our position at all levels.
Other initiatives were also taken at a national and regional levels. But AREV members unanimously agreed that these individual actions should lead to a collective action at a more appropriate level i.e. a European level. So here we are today. I wish to thank you for answering our call. I also wish to thank our Bavarian friends who welcomed us this morning and have taken sides with us.
I wish to welcome each and every one of you. You represent 40 regions in 13 countries. You represent the trade, but today we have chosen to invite political representatives to speak first. You are, my dear colleagues, the presidents of important wine-growing regions and the representatives of wine professionals are by your sides. The AREV is the only international association that brings together on an equal footing the political and trade representatives from our vineyards. You have come here to make yourselves heard. Some from far afield. I particularly wish to thank those of you have come a long way because you were absolutely determined to be here with us today.
You have a history and traditions that are unique to you. You often come from different political camps. However, you all wish to express your attachment to a conception of wine-growing that the Commission disputes and wishes to call into question. Its technocrats have turned a deaf ear to us. As proof of this, we only have to look at the working conditions of the High Level Group directed by the Director General for Agriculture. Our action and cohesion are the best response to this obstacle.
At issue here is not just the defence of one category’s interests. The idea is also, and essentially, to promote the future of our regions. In addition to the tens of thousands of vineyards, our regions also include tens of thousands of jobs in associated activities, in tourism, gastronomy, the environment and training. All of these are now threatened. Consumers are also concerned by this debate because by linking the quality of a wine to its original terroir, we provide them with a guarantee of perfect traceability. This enables wine-growers to improve production techniques while having less recourse to chemical treatments.
Thus contributing to environmental protection. While protecting consumers and promoting quality, the main sales argument for our wines throughout the world, sales which, I would like to point out, represent exports of €7 billion for Europe, a not insignificant figure.
The attachment of our regions to their terroirs does not derive from some antiquated dogma. It is the key to the future. The Brussels Commission wants to divide us by creating, in our own vineyards, a false debate between the producers, whom it accuses of being sometimes set in a defensive position, and the wine merchants, whom it considers to be more open to international markets and more favourable to increased volumes. Professor Montaigne’s study commissioned by the AREV demonstrates that controlling rights does not in any way prevent adjustment to the market. On the contrary, it demonstrated that in countries with no rules, like Australia, the market is collapsing. Vines have to be ripped up and this spells the end of small and medium-sized vineyards.
No doubt there will always be conflicts of interest between producers and wine merchants, but that is for them to settle. The essential thing is to maintain the principle of controlling the production potential beyond 1 January 2016. If this is not done, there will be no further need for debate. Vineyards will be planted everywhere and any old way. They will be relocated all over the world and the European regions affected by this will suffer the same fate as the industrial regions: they will be drained of their jobs and wealth.
Cohesion and mobilization are thus the watchwords of the day. Tomorrow we will have to go even further. We have allies in the other agricultural sectors that are also threatened by deregulation. All types of agricultural production are threatened because what the Commission wants to do with wine today, it may very well decide to do with other agricultural sectors tomorrow, like fruit and vegetables.
Trade organization both national and European have been effective vehicles for passing on information about today’s event. I wish to thank them for their cooperation.
Other initiatives will follow. Our united front must also reach out to embrace consumer defence organizations and associations for environmental protection because both of these are sensitive to our commitment in favour of our regions. We can also count on the support of our governments and many members of both our national and European parliaments. Some of them are with us today. I welcome you all. Many have written to express their support. The important thing now is for all regions to form a united front and, regardless of their diversity, to speak with one voice. We wish to invite the presidents and ministers from the wine-growing regions present here today to speak, after which we shall adopt a joint declaration.
Established in close collaboration with the President of the CEPV (European Committee of Wine Professionals): Aly Leonardy (Luxembourg) and Vice-President Ettore Ponzo (Italy), this declaration repeats all the arguments and ideas that the AREV political and trade representatives have validated unanimously at the different AREV sessions and meetings over the last five years. This declaration will be transmitted to the European Commission, to the governments of the member states, to the Council of European Ministers for Agriculture, to members of European and national parliaments and, of course, to AREV members, to wine professionnals organizations and to journalists who, I am pleased to see, are present in large numbers today.
It will thus be broadly distributed.
We shall remain extremely attentive to the Commissioner’s reaction to our action, and to the final proposals of the High Level Group in December.
We will support all actions in favour of maintaining plantation rights, without however excluding further large-scale actions.
Now, more than ever, it is essential that we all remain mobilized!