The 2020 edition of the biannual event on EU quality schemes organised by the European Commission (DG AGRI) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), took place on 25-26 November 2020.
‘Strengthening Geographical Indications – on-line Conference 2020’, gathered together for two days GIs experts, practitioners, stakeholders, Member State officials, international and civil society organisations, in order to engage in an active debate and exchange of knowledge on how to enhance EU GI system ahead of the upcoming public consultation.
With interactive plenaries and parallel sessions, this virtual event covered a wide range of topical issues on GIs: Controls and enforcement; IP protection; protection on the internet; sustainability; Increasing the attractiveness; Empowering producer groups; the global dimension of GIs; non-agricultural GIs. Plus, on day 1, the “GIview” database was officially launched. This new public database will help searching for all GIs registered at EU level and protected under EU international agreements It will require as well an active role of producers’ groups, who will have the possibility to make available several pieces of information and details concerning their products.
Geographical Indications are a success story in the European Union
In his opening speech, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Janusz Wojciechowski, reaffirmed that this is a new momentum for GIs in Europe: strengthening EU GIs is a key priority of the European Commission (EC), intentioned to find the right answers to the numerous challenges ahead (societal expectations, sustainability, attractiveness, enhanced protection) through the GIs review process.
“GIs are a real success story in the European Union. They continue to be at the heart of our agricultural policy, supporting our farmers to deliver quality agricultural products to Europeans and maintaining knowledge and traditions. They are truly and essential component of EU identity”.
The main goal for the EC is to be able to tablea proposal for a strengthened GIs system by the end of 2021.
Core messages of the conference
European Commission firstly committed to the EU quality policy review in the framework of the Farm to Fork strategy, hence GIs sustainability is one of the major issues to be dealing with.
GIs already contribute to sustainability and sustainable food production. Nevertheless, a soft transition towards more sustainable GIs should be envisaged to increase their performance on this aspect. Plus, it will also be essential to define and agree on some indicators, hence allowing as well to better communicate the attributes of GI products to consumers.
A new approach concerning GIs protection and the tools for controls and enforcement remain pivotal. Particularly, the conference emphasised the vulnerability of the protection of GIs on the internet, focusing on sales-platform and Domain Names System (DNS). A discussion on protection has been held as well in the session dedicated to Non-agricultural GIs, since EC opened to the introduction of a system for sui generis protection of non-agricultural products with the Action Plan on Intellectual Property .
Among the different topics at the centre of the online event, the geographical imbalance at EU level in take up of geographical indications. This led to further explore how to increase GIs attractiveness, laying stress on the multidisciplinary nature of GIs and the need to empower producers’ groups.
As a matter of facts, behind each successful GI there’s a well-organised producers’ group, which is supported all along the process by at least one institutional entrepreneur. In this context, the priority should be of providing producers the right tools and means (including trainings) to be able to defend and promote their products, in order to have a clearer economic role in the supply chain.
Strengthening the role of producers was also reminded in the opening remarks of MEP Irene Tolleret, President of the EP Intergroup on “Wine, spirits and quality foodstuffs”.
“A relevant aspect to be addressed is to improve the information about the characteristics of these products. Consumers do not always differentiate geographical indications from non-quality products. Citizens don’t easily recognise EU logos” Ms Tolleret stated, urging to improve as well the market positioning of EU GIs. In her speech, a focus on the importance of promotion policy for EU quality schemes and on the matter of the mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling, hoping for the best possible concerted solution for consumers and EU GIs.
AREPO congratulated the European Commission and the European Union Intellectual Property Office for the organization of this successful initiative, welcoming the results of the debate.
AREPO contributed to the exchange during parallel sessions bringing its expertise. Furthermore, AREPO Secretary General, Mr Laurent Gomez, had the pleasure to take part as speaker in the conclusive plenary session, setting forth our priorities and expectations for EU quality schemes.
“EU quality policy is a public policy aiming at delivering public goods to the whole European society, as such it should be considered a major pillar of the Farm to Fork strategy. Nevertheless, EU quality policy potential is still underutilized in the EU. For this reason, we welcome the European Commission intention to strengthen the GIs legislative framework, believing that, together with the current revision of the CAP, it will be crucial to consolidate the role of Geographical Indications as tools for rural development and territorial planning”.