Good afternoon, I'm very happy to be here with you for this event, congratulations to the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition for organising such an impressive line-up of speakers and themes.

During this morning's panel, you have heard a number of speakers discuss the big picture in relation to global food sustainability, and different options for making further progress.

I would like to give an overview of what is happening from the European policy perspective, particularly in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy.

Just last Friday the European Commission launched its proposal for the CAP beyond 2020, and I believe this document delivers answers to many of the questions you have asked here today.

Before I address our ambitious future strategy, let me remind you of how far the CAP has come.

When it comes to the sustainability of our climate and environment, the policy has already made significant strides. Since 1990, the CAP has achieved a 23% reduction in carbon emissions and a 17.7% reduction in nitrates in rivers.

This growing contribution is recognised by an ever-increasing number of our citizens – a fact that has been proven by successive Eurobarometer polls.

When it comes to the impact of the CAP abroad, the picture is also more positive than ever before. The European Union is today the most development friendly trading bloc in the world, with extremely favourable trading conditions for nations across the developing world.

As a result, the CAP has become far more outward-looking and is truly plugged into the global economy.

This means that European farmers and agri-businesses are competing in international markets to sell our products. And it means a more global outlook and a more nuanced understanding of the policy's impact on other parts of the world.

In line with the aims of SDG 2, the CAP contributes to correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in global markets, due to its increased market orientation.

I think it is very important to emphasise this point, because we still have to deal with some misinformation emanating in relation to our policy.

Today, the EU gives duty-free and quota-free access to all Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and unilateral concessions to developing countries.

We have developed Economic Partnership Agreements – free trade agreements – that were carefully crafted to allow our partner countries to protect their sensitive agricultural products from liberalisation, either by excluding them entirely or by allowing robust safeguards that can be used to guard against sudden increases in imports.

We continue to work closely with our partner countries in the developing world to share expertise and best practice on agriculture and food safety.

Over the last two years, we have made continued efforts to promote responsible agri-food investments in Africa: investments which avoid land grabbing, pay a decent return to farmers, providing them with a higher share of the value added generated in the food processing chain.

Just two weeks ago, the African Union Commission and the European Union Commission met together, conducting an in-depth discussion on this very topic.

To further ramp up cooperation with our African partners, the European Commission recently set up the Task Force on Rural Africa.

This is a group of eleven experts from Africa and Europe, with different and complementary profiles, in areas such as agriculture, agri-business, finance, development, research and sustainable production.

The Task Force will deliver a report of recommendations by the end of this year, addressing a number of headline questions including the issue of food and agricultural sustainability.

As I mentioned, the European Commission last week launched its legislative proposal for the next life cycle of the Common Agricultural Policy. The new CAP for the period 2021-2027 aims to contribute even more to sustainability both at home and abroad, keeping a close eye on the SDGs as a key reference point.

Let's start with the domestic European picture. The new CAP aims to maintain essential income support for our farmers while making them more competitive and more sustainable. Indeed, Eurobarometer surveys show that our citizens value the public goods that farmers provide on their behalf.

However, our citizens also want our farmers and rural areas to do more for the climate and the environment, and indeed such an increased ambition is essential if we are to meet our European targets under the SDGs and COP21 Climate Agreement.

To achieve these goals, and to accelerate the transformation of sustainable European food production, we are bringing in a new delivery model for generating better results. This highly innovative approach shifts the emphasis from rules and compliance to results and performance.

Moving from a one-size-fits-all to a tailor-made approach means the policy will be closer to those who implement it on the ground – the farmers.

This approach will give greater freedom to Member States to decide how best to meet the common objectives at the same time as responding to the specific needs of their farmers, rural communities and society at large.

At EU level, the focus will be on:

Setting common objectives such as market orientation and competitiveness or contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation;

Direct payments will have to respect stronger environmental conditions; thereby all farms will make an enhanced contribution to the delivery of public goods;

Secondly, a common ‘toolkit’ of measures can be used by Member States to achieve common objectives.

The toolkit includes rural development measures which offer tailor-made solutions based on local needs: farmers who are willing to do more for the environment will be paid for the extra mile they are willing to go.

Member States will be able to tailor the tools to their own specific needs, setting out how they plan to do so in a comprehensive CAP Strategic Plan. 

These CAP Strategic Plans will set out how each country proposes to meet the overall CAP objectives, mindful of its own specific needs.

The CAP Strategic Plan will be particularly effective in delivering stronger climate and environmental ambition – which in turn is a central plank of increased food sustainability. The Commission will approve such plans, thereby ensuring coherence and a level-playing field across the EU.

Actions under the CAP are expected to contribute 40 per cent of the overall CAP budget to climate mainstreaming.

This will contribute to climate mitigation, but also to more efficient management of our natural resources and biodiversity, therefore contributing also to climate adaptation.

30 per cent of rural development funding will be dedicated to environment, climate and biodiversity-related measures.

Member States will in addition have greater flexibility to reallocate funding between different schemes for more focused spending on climate and environment measures.

I appreciate that these descriptions are very technical, but the desired end result can be understood and appreciated by everyone:

We want to maintain European food security and foster a diversified agricultural sector, while significantly enhancing European food sustainability.

Research and innovation will play a crucial role. An additional €10 billion in funding will be available through the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme to support specific research and innovation in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy. This should yield a significant food sustainability dividend.

This is a big step, because only with a resilient and smart agricultural sector will the EU be able to contribute to food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, as called for in Sustainable Development Goal 2.

Nutrient management plans will improve water quality and climate adaptability on farms, enhancing our overall environment and climate action. This will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 13.

In SDG 12, there is an emphasis on the sustainable use of resources and climate action through responsible consumption and production.

Meanwhile, "life on land" - in other words how we manage forests, tackle land degradation, and stop biodiversity loss - is the focus of SDG 15.

Farmers around the world and in the EU are strongly exposed to the consequences of climate change. Hence the future CAP will support farmers to strengthen their resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters.

I am confident that these measures will individually - and working in combination - deliver on a more efficient Common Agricultural Policy within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

They will contribute to global food security, strengthen reliability of supply, and contribute to food sustainability from both a climate and environment point of view and from the point of view of social development in rural areas.

I encourage you to read the full legislative proposals which are available online, and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of your discussions today. Thank you.