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Elements of reflection by the Commission on the future management of vine's plantations, speech of the Director-General José Manuel Silva Rodriguez to the High Level Group in Palermo, the 21st September 2012

Palermo, 21 September 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Following our the discussions to date, including within the High Level Group, we have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by Member States and professional organisations regarding the end of the transitional planting right regime on 1 January 2016. These concerns include the risks of over-production which could lead to a reduction in prices, the least productive areas being abandoned in favour of the lowlands, a fall in the number of family businesses, etc.
I would now like to present to you some elements of reflection in the light of the discussions held thus far at the two initial meetings of the High Level Group.
As Commissioner CioloĊŸ already stated in his speech inaugurating the High Level Group, backsliding to a conservative position is simply not an option. On the contrary, it would be a boon for our competitors, and legally speaking it is not possible to extend indefinitely a temporary regime  to end on 1 January 2016. Moreover, a step backwards of this kind would go against the Council decision, in other words yours, taken in 2008, when the latest wine reform was adopted.
If there is to be a system for managing plantings, it must be flexible, non-restrictive, both at EU and Member State level and must ensure that the operators are greatly involved.
As further food for thought we wish to put forward some elements of reflection addressing the concerns raised with regard to planting management.
The key idea is that planting management shall largely involve the professionals themselves, which requires the active participation of the majority of economic actors in the wine sector. This approach is in line with the reform proposal of the CAP, which substantially strengthens the role of producer and inter-branch organisations.
Indeed, we acknowledge that a modern and ambitious planting management system cannot be centralised in Brussels. Decision making shall be taken in the field and placed more in the hands of wine growers, other economic actors and their professional organisations. They are the ones who are the best acquainted with the current and future market conditions and opportunities. It is them who shall become the real players in planting management.
This will promote a better organisation, cooperation and management of the sector and the industry in order to collectively boost added value and draw collective benefit from the economic effects.

These elements of reflection lead us to propose two key complementary tools.

This implies transferring to the economic actors involved in the production of PDO/PGI wines the management of their own planting areas. Management of this kind could come under the tasks assigned to professional organisations, such as producer organisations, inter-branch organisations or any other competent body (e.g. Consorzi di Tutela, Consejos Reguladores, Organismes de Défense et de Gestion, chambers of commerce, etc.). Any decisions taken under this framework would have to be endorsed by the public authorities (national or regional).
In this system, certain priorities, e.g. for young farmers, could be introduced on the basis of objective and non-discriminatory criteria, as well as certain conditions linked to the typology of the land, whilst ensuring that the system does not become too restrictive.

Even if we do not expect a huge proliferation of new plantings in 2019, some of the concerns you have raised must be addressed.
The new planting management system could therefore provide for a safeguard clause which the Member States (or the Commission) could trigger if the pre-established threshold were exceeded; this would be monitored and checked by the Commission. If the threshold were exceeded, plantings would be frozen.
The aim of this mechanism would be to prevent any rapid expansion of vineyards which could cause a degradation of the market situation.

This new system would not apply to certain Member States, as it is already the case. That concerns 11 Member States. This said, the system could also not be applicable to other Member States with very low production potential.
This new system should apply in a coherent and harmonised way across Member States. The restrictions currently in force at national or regional level should be abolished in order to avoid any distortion of competition among EU producers.
This new system would require that control rules are established at EU level, with adequate sanctions to be applied by Member States in case of non-compliance with those rules.
Lastly, this new system should be integrated into the Post-2013 Single CMO Regulation. The regions, the geographical areas affected or the Member States could therefore start implementing it as from the beginning of 2016, or 2019 if the current scheme was to continue temporarily, as provided for in current legislation.

These, then, are the reflection elements induced by our previous discussions. They constitute a significant opening of the Commission as compared to the position adopted during the 2008 reform, so as to address the fears voiced by the sector and to allow it to play an active role in its future development.

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