A view from the European Parliament (vol.5)
2017 continues to be another significant year with agri-food issues remaining high on the European Parliament’s agenda. We have seen progress on a number of files in recent months, in particular in the areas of acrylamide mitigation, the alleged dual-quality of foodstuffs, agriculture and trade, and renewable energy. In September, Members of the European Parliament’s Environment & Food Safety (ENVI) committee supported the European Commission’s proposal to establish mitigation measures to reduce the presence of acrylamide in food. The legislation, which passed the Parliament’s scrutiny procedure in October, is due to enter into force in spring 2018.
A number of MEPs from several Central and Eastern European Member States have been calling on the European Commission to take action against food and drink companies, claiming that products sold to consumers in their markets are of inferior quality compared to similar products sold in Western European ones. The food and drink industry is taking these allegations very seriously. We consider all consumers as equal and firmly believe everyone deserves the best quality and the highest safety that European standards guarantee. FoodDrinkEurope has been cooperating with the European Commission since this issue was raised at European level and has committed to open dialogue withal stakeholders, at European and national level. The sector is also cooperating with the European Joint Research Centre to help establish harmonised testing methodologies for the various products mentioned. Facts must be clearly established before accusations are made and FoodDrinkEurope is working hard on a factual approach to assess the situation, while reminding all parties that a difference in recipe does not mean lesser quality and that differences in products span across the EU, not specifically between East and West.
MEPs on the Agriculture and Rural Development committee have been negotiating the agricultural dimension of the EU’s Omnibus Regulation, the financial regulation governing the implementation of the EU budget. FoodDrinkEurope regrets that the introduction of substantial derogations from EU competition law in favour of a particular segment of the food supply chain would have far reaching effects on the operation of competition law and on the market orientation of EU agriculture. We believe that market orientation and structural measures would have been more effective in fostering the efficiency and competitiveness of EU farmers.
On trade, the European Parliament has adopted guidelines to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. As a next step, the Council is expected to approve its negotiating mandates in November, which would enable the Commission to start talks with the two countries before the end of the year. The outcome of negotiations will then have to be approved by the European Parliament.
In the area of renewable energy, members of the ENVI committee have adopted their opinion report on the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED 2). The lead committee, ITRE, is now expected to adopt its report at the end of November, which will be followed by a Plenary vote, expected for the beginning of 2018. FoodDrinkEurope welcomes the “Clean Energy for all” package, which is in line with our industry’s actions, including the European Commission’s proposal for a recast Renewable Energy Directive that will help to speed up action and the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Looking ahead, Brexit negotiations will continue to feature strongly on the Parliament’s agenda. Unfair trading practices in the food supply chain remain a priority and negotiations on the Waste Package between the three European institutions continue to advance with an agreement expected to be reached before the end of the year.