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Local and regional leaders want a stronger role and more coherence in EU policies for sustainable food systems  

A strategic use of public procurement and clearer environmental and social criteria will be key to boost the transition

Local and regional leaders call on the European Commission to publish the legislative framework for sustainable food systems as planned, later this year. The framework law should create coherence between different food-related policies, promote access to more healthy food, and recognise the crucial role of local and regional authorities by setting up an inclusive governance model. These were the main demands of the opinion on the Legislative framework for sustainable food systems by Joke Schauvliege (BE/EPP), Vice-President of the Flemish Parliament, adopted at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 26 May.

The European Commission (EC) work programme foresees the adoption by the end of 2023 of a new legislative framework for sustainable food systems (FSFS), an initiative which is part of the Farm-to-Fork Strategy and that aims at the promotion of food policies coherence and harmonisation at EU and national level, integrating the principle of sustainability.

The European Committee of the Regions supports the intent of the European Commission to put forward a legislative framework for sustainable food systems and adopted a series of recommendations to ensure that horizontal and sectoral policies related to food systems are in line with the goals and objectives of the future legislative framework of the Farm-to-Fork Strategy and the objectives of zero pollution.

The proposal of local and regional leaders focuses on the importance of a harmonised approach to food policies in the Union that considers all elements and activities from production to consumption and is based on clear scientific definitions of environmental, social and economicsustainability principles and objectives. It aims to establish cooperation and involvement of the various levels of governance in the EU, with a clear definition of the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the food system, including the role of local authorities in the transition of the sector.

Rapporteur Joke Schauvliege (BE/EPP), Vice-president of the Flemish Parliament, said "A European sustainable food strategy can only be realised if local and regional authorities are sufficiently involved. Public catering and food environments are crucial to achieving sustainable food. There must be room for customization and the strategy must be built from the bottom up. There is a great deal of expertise and experience available at the local and regional level and this must be valorised. That is why we advocate an advisory European food council in which local authorities are involved."

Members strongly advocate that cities and regions are key players in addressing the challenges of food systems since food constitutes an activity within sectors that are often the responsibility of local and regional authorities, like the promotion of health, school sectors, regional development and spatial planning. Therefore, cities and regions have a crucial role to play in creating healthy "food environments" by ensuring that sustainable, healthy diets are the most straightforward and most accessible choice through appropriate urban planning by avoiding, for example, fast food restaurants near schools and facilitating access to healthy food options such as seasonal food markets and thereby also supporting sustainable producers.

Local and regional representatives request the European Commission to set up a multi-stakeholde r platform on sustainable food systems, involving the European Committee of the Regions and other relevant stakeholders, to create an exchange of experiences that would help the transition, taking into account regional disparities.

Food public procurement is an important and powerful tool to help local and regional authorities to promote sustainable food systems. Public procurement in schools, hospitals, elderly care homes and canteens, that favours healthy, seasonal and local food and short supply chains, contributes to the goals of healthy food systems and the Sustainable Development Goals. The CoR urges all EU public authorities to develop sustainable public procurement strategies and targets that help achieve the objectives of the Green Deal. On the same vein, the Cor is calling to eliminate the existing constraints within EU rules to apply sustainability criteria. The guidelines on how to use food public procurement should be made widely available and support provided to local and regional authorities to use it efficiently, taking into account sustainability criteria and local and regional circumstances. Public money should be spent primarily on foods in diets that are considered healthy and sustainable, and their prices should be aligned with their true cost.

The EC proposal will include a revision of the sustainability labelling framework as part of the FSFS and EU local and regional leaders recommend the adoption of harmonised, proportionate legally regulated and mandatory European labelling schemes based on robust and independent scientific evidence to help consumers make informed, healthy, sustainable food decisions.

Finally, cities and regions underline that a sustainable food system must ensure climate-responsible food production and guarantee food security and nutrition for all, now and in the future.

Background:

The European Committee of the Regions adopted opinion on "Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food system."

The CoR study on Repercussions of the agri-food crisis at local and regional level in the EU.

Contact:

Ângela Machado

Tel. +32 475 41 31 58

angela.machado@cor.europa.eu

Alejandro Maya Toro

Tel. +32 2 282 2131

Alejandro.MayaToro@cor.europa.eu





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