Better rules and a stronger role for the EU Intellectual Property Office are key to preserving the essence of Europe's cultural and gastronomic heritage, accounting for €74.76 billion in sales
In the opinion adopted on 30 November at its plenary session, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) supports the European Commission's proposal to merge the three geographical indication (GIs) systems into a single system with common provisions for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wines and spirits. The CoR particularly welcomes the delegation of part of the examination of dossiers to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which has effective tools that can be put to use by GI producers to simplify registration procedures, improve GI monitoring and fight fraud.
Geographical indications (GIs) are part of the European Union's cultural and gastronomic heritage and account for EUR 74.76 billion in sales, or 15.5% of all EU agri-food exports. At a time when agricultural raw material prices are soaring, high-quality production chains have a major impact on economic and social activity in the regions they are a part of, particularly by having a stabilising effect on regional economies. They also make it possible to develop investment, research and innovation in the regions and to ensure that producers receive a fair share of the value.
Karine Gloanec-Maurin (FR/PES), member of Couëtron Municipal Council in Perche (department of Loir-et-Cher), President of the Community of Municipalities of Collines du Perche and rapporteur for the opinion, said: "Geographical indications are an integral part of European identity. Who could imagine France without champagne, Italy without parmesan or Spain without Iberian ham? They have shaped our territories and continue to play a fundamental role in rural development because they provide a better income for producers and help make rural areas more attractive. They are the model for developing high-quality European agriculture. This is why the CoR has supported the evolution of the GI system towards a voluntary pro-stability approach to encourage producers and producer groups to engage more in the sustainable transition."
MEP and rapporteur for the revision of geographical indications, Paolo De Castro (IT/S&D), contributed to the discussion and said: "This is not a revolution, but the evolution of a system that is unique in the world, which already works by generating value without the need to invest any public funds. In order to effectively improve the situation of our quality producers, our work revolves around four main pillars: strengthening the role of producer groups, greater protection, simplification and clarification of the role of the EUIPO, and sustainability. For the first time, this regulation offers the possibility to create a single text for all quality products, while safeguarding the specific characteristics of each sector. I hope that in the coming weeks everyone can contribute to improving this text so that this work will not be an opportunity for some but a missed opportunity for others."
The main points of the opinion are:
- The CoR endorses the provision of technical expertise by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on intellectual property rights, which is the main novelty in this reform proposed by the European Commission. This expertise could provide important support for strengthening the protection of geographical indications. However, geographical indications should not be managed as trademarks, and the European Commission proposal should clarify that the EUIPO should only carry out checks in the field of intellectual property.
- The regulation should define environmental, economic and socio-cultural sustainability criteria that the European Commission would like to establish through producer groups in order to keep them under the full control of the European co-legislators, the European Parliament and Council of the EU.
- Producers groups should be encouraged to improve their organisation in order to work effectively and develop strong collective governance of GIs. However, European harmonisation must not undermine national systems that are already in place and working well.
- The acknowledgement of regional and local bodies' contribution in the preparation and finalisation of registration procedures is an important step to improve the cooperation among all involved actors.
- The CoR, as the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities, should be fully involved in the evaluation of the new geographical indications system because of their territorial impact.
As of 1 January 2021, 3 306 geographical indications were registered at EU level by its Member States. Three Member States account for more than half of the registered names: Italy (858 names), France (734 names) and Spain (354 names), followed by Greece (270 names), Portugal (190 names) and Germany (167 names).
Most GIs are registered in the wine and agricultural and food product sectors (49% and 44% of registered names respectively). Spirit drinks accounted for 7% of registered names and aromatised wine products accounted for 0.2% of the names.
Marie-Pierre Jouglain – Press Officer
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