Adapting food policy to increase the EU's
self-sufficiency is essential in face of climate crisis and war in Ukraine.
attempt to conquer Ukraine and the unfolding climate crisis should accelerate
further far-reaching changes in the European Union's food-security policies,
leading to changes in production, supply, and regulation, local and regional
leaders agreed at a conference co-organised by the European Committee of the
Regions (CoR) and the Polish region of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region on 2 June.
The conference – entitled "Food crisis: Innovative building of resilient regional and local communities" – was held in Toruń and capped two days of discussions involving members of the CoR's Commission for Natural Resources (NAT). The debates saw politicians from the EU's regions, cities and rural communities highlight the implications of droughts and floods, rising costs of food production, and the vulnerability of the food-supply chain. Bold action and innovation by producers and politicians – in areas ranging from fisheries to consumer protection – will be necessary to re-set the EU's food system on a sustainable footing, they argued.
Opening the two days of discussions, the chairwoman of the NAT committee, Isilda Gomes (PT/PES), Mayor of Portimão, said: "With the war in Ukraine, a new unexpected crisis puts our European food systems in jeopardy. At local and regional levels, we have solutions to make these systems more resilient: by implementing smart and sustainable procurement, short local food systems, waste reduction or urban agriculture. But we also need a stronger framework at European level with more regulation to stop the speculation in our food markets nowadays."
Piotr Całbecki (PL/EPP), President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region, the hosting region, said: "Russia's invasion of Ukraine, poses the very real threats of famine in parts of the world and of social and economic problems. A fundamental revision of the European Union's agricultural policy is needed. The European Union at the level of individual regions should become much more self-sufficient in food. Our food needs to improve in quality and promote health. Food production could be an extremely innovative field and provide an impetus for the development of modern regions. The European Union should not support totalitarian regimes and countries that are degrading their environment by buying of food, fertilisers or other agricultural inputs from them."
The President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region added: "We find ourselves in a situation where the dependence of the European Union has become so great that it is very easy for food supplies to be destabilised, whether by natural disasters, pandemics, or political blackmail."
Mr Całbecki also praised the EU's efforts to map environmental vulnerabilities, through its Earth observation programme Copernicus. The conference was held in the birthplace – Toruń – and on the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus. The Copernicus programme provides data for policymakers and public authorities who need the information to develop environmental legislation and policies or to take critical decisions in the event of an emergencies such as natural disasters.
MEP Marlene Mortler (DE/EPP) of the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "Food security is becoming a mega-issue. In 1952, there were 2.5 billion people worldwide, today there are 8 billion. The grain that is currently landing in Poland from Ukraine must finally reach the starving people. The losers are already known: the farmers in the Ukraine and in Poland and other neighbouring countries, because the prices are low and soon the new harvest is pending. The EU Commission has long been called upon to take action!"
Serhiy Tyurin, Governor of Khmelnytskyi Oblast, who was unable to attend the meeting due to massive rocket attacks in central Ukraine, stressed in a video message the value and importance of cooperation at local level in overcoming crisis situations.
In a video message, Dubravka Šuica, European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, assured local and regional politicians oif the European Commission's support through implementation of the EU's rural agenda.
The meeting came against the backdrop of Europe's worst drought in 500 years in 2022, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and a sharp increase in the cost of living within the EU. Russia's attempt to conquer Ukraine has destabilised global agricultural markets and raised tensions within the EU's agricultural system, with Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary in 2023 imposing unilateral embargoes on the import of agricultural products from Ukraine.
Food security is a significant element of the European Green Deal, a package of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. The Green Deal includes a wide range of policies related to the food system and on decarbonising business.
The NAT meeting, held on 1 June, adopted a draft opinion prepared by Dan Boyle (IE/GREENS) on the Consumers' protection package. The opinion is linked to the European Green Deal and its objectives on sustainable consumption and circular economy. Commission members agreed recommendations on common principles to promote the repair of goods and common criteria to counter greenwashing and misleading environmental claims. Representatives of local and regional government in the NAT commission supported the Green Claims Directive, which aims to provide consumers with greater clarity about the environmentally-friendly credentials of products, and backed ideas to encourage repairs of products.
The members of the NAT also exchanged views on two other opinions that are in the early stages of being drafted and which are also associated with the European Green Deal:
The next NAT committee meeting will take place on 5 October 2023 in Brussels.
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