Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here with you in Bordeaux – the Wine Capital of the World. This region is synonymous with fine wine, and your amazing wine heritage has made your products famous not just in Europe but right across the planet. In fact, when you hear the word "Bordeaux", the first thing you think about is wine.
So I think it's safe to say we are in the right place for a discussion about the wine sector!
Yesterday I visited the Cité du Vin, which is a wonderful space highlighting the proud history of the viticulture sector in a very modern, interactive way.
In a way, the Cité du Vin symbolises what I hope will be the future of the wine sector: a modern, dynamic environment which maintains the best traditions by using the best innovations and technology. I look forward to discussing in greater detail with you how we can achieve this goal.
I understand this is the first time all the main representative organisations for the French wine producers are holding a joint congress, which makes it a truly significant event. I believe this collaborative approach is the right way to make sure your views are heard and understood at the highest levels.
Today, I want to deliver a strong message to you from the European Union. With the support of the Common Agricultural Policy, your sector has evolved and grown to become an economic mainstay of our proud rural areas.
Every year, the EU supports the French strategy to modernise your indigenous wine sector to the tune of €280 million – a strong statement of support in a time of competing budgetary demands.
With this support, and thanks to the EU wine sector's constant commitment to quality, you have also succeeded in becoming an exporting powerhouse. Our total EU exports are valued at €10 Billion, which reflects the fact that European wine is a quality symbol worldwide.
In fact wine is one of our strongest export sectors, as demonstrated by our 2015 trade balance which showed a surplus of €8.4 billion.
Now we must work together to make sure you can do even more in the future – and the Common Agricultural Policy will support you every step of the way.
At home, the policy has provided smart and structured support for French viticulture. And abroad, we are pushing hard to develop new markets for your high-quality products.
Today I want to share with you my rock-solid belief that your sector will be best served in the coming years by an ambitious, well-funded CAP at the heart of a united Europe.
(EU Wine Sector – Recent Development)
Let's begin with the domestic picture: the 2008 wine reform took the first important steps to streamline EU policy objectives for the wine sector.
It aimed to make EU wine producers even more competitive, thereby enhancing the reputation of European wines and regaining market share both in the EU and outside;
It aimed to simplify market-management rules, making them targeted and more effective, in order to achieve a better balance between supply and demand;
And it aimed to preserve the best traditions of European wine growing while also boosting the social and environmental dimension of the sector in rural areas.
These goals were achieved by:
- Creating the tailor-made National Support Programmes which are widely considered to be a very successful and innovative instrument of the CAP; EU financing of wine promotion in the National Support Programmes reached €170 million in 2016 and was applied by 14 Member States.
- We also introduced vineyards in the general agricultural support scheme;
- eliminated EU wide market support mechanisms like distillation;
- abolished export subsidies;
- and introduced the 1% flexibility on planting rights;
One of the very positive results of these changes was that imports of wine remained stable, while our exports boomed from 5 to 10 billion Euro.
With these reforms, we have moved away from classical market measures, and I believe the reorganisation of supports for the sector are serving, and will continue to serve, growers and operators well.
The 2013 reform of the CAP maintained the fundamentals of the 2008 wine reform but replaced the EU planting rights regime with a scheme of authorisations for vine planting, which began in 2016.
The authorisations go hand in hand with the possibility for producers to increase production. This was in addition to the general goals of the 2013 reform to harmonise and simplify the provisions of the CAP.
With these positive changes, the EU is helping farmers and businesses in the wine sector to operate in a more dynamic and more innovative environment. And this has led to a surge in wine exports.
(Wine Exports – Diplomatic Offensive)
Today, total European wine production amounts to some 170 million hl of wine which generates an estimated value for its producers of €17 Billion.
This continuing strong economic performance allows our wine sector to support 3 million direct jobs and it is today very strongly market orientated. Many of these jobs are in rural areas, where quality jobs are not always easy to find.
To maintain this competitive advantage, in 2016 and 2017 I have been travelling around the world on a "Diplomatic Offensive," visiting key export markets to strengthen existing trade relationships and create new ones for our mutual benefit.
In 2016 I visited Mexico and Colombia, China, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia, accompanied on each trip by a business delegation from our agri-food sector, including representatives from the wine sector. This year, I have visited China and Canada.
Participating in these delegations gives operators excellent business opportunities and helps them to gather knowledge on export procedures for attractive new destinations.
And they also help to build political relationships which smooth the path towards strong bilateral trade agreements. As you will have noticed, market access for wine and full GI protection is a must-have in all our FTA's.
I want to make this point crystal clear to you, because there are still voices in French politics that make false claims about our trade performance, and make impossible promises that life would be better outside the EU.
I prefer to deal with the facts. So here is a fact: today, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe agreed on the details of a trade agreement between the EU and Japan.
This deal is extremely positive for European agri-food, in particular our wine sector.
The deal means that wines will be liberalised at entry into force – the first time this concession has been granted by Japan.
145 million euro's worth of duty will be saved by EU wine exporters each year – this means that French and European wines are no longer at a competitive disadvantage to wines from Australia or the Americas.
And over 130 EU geographical indications, including our most famous wine names like Bordeaux will be granted the highest possible level of protection in Japan.
This deal, which will benefit both Europe and Japan, shows the importance of size in global trade negotiations. A strong, unified European Union, representing 500 million citizens, can deliver benefits for both our exporters and our citizens. No individual Member State could ever hope to achieve what the EU 28 can achieve together.
The European Commission, President Macron, and many others, have made this point repeatedly to our colleagues in the UK.
And promotion of course plays a more crucial role than ever today.
As you know, EU Member States may allocate a part of their EU Wine National Support Programmes for projects promoting and marketing EU wines. This has proven to be a well-functioning and successful approach.
(Future of Wine Sector – CAP Reform)
Looking to the future, I want to hear your views and work directly with you to ensure the sector remains strong and vibrant in the coming years.
Our wine rules are considered to be the most effective in the world – in fact, the world's other regions use them as a reference point.
But we can and must do more. We must continue to modernise our European wide production using research and innovation, such as the excellent work taking place right here in Bordeaux in the Institute of the Sciences of Vines and Wines.
The European wine sector needs to be prepared for the future and be in a position to develop in the best possible way - especially for the quality wines that are our strong point.
For example, if we look at the issue of the exclusive use of Vitis vinifera vine varieties for PDO wines – this needs to be addressed for several reasons:
First, to harmonise rules and their implementation. As you know Member States are not all applying this requirement in the same way;
Second, for agronomic reasons. We must ensure that vine growing can develop a stronger resistance to pests by enhancing genetic diversity and thus enabling a reduction in the use of pesticides.
The Commission is open to further reflection in this area of EU wine legislation if the wine sector considers that changes are needed.
In relation to consumer information, particularly information around health issues, this challenge has to be addressed, taking into account the specificity of the wine sector.
As you know, in March this year the Commission adopted a report on the labelling of the list of ingredients and nutrition declaration for alcoholic beverages.
According to this report, the alcoholic beverages' industry should develop, within one year, self-regulatory initiatives aiming at providing information to consumers on ingredients and nutritional values. I urge you to take the bull by the horns and be proactive rather than reactive on this issue.
Finally, when it comes to the bigger picture of modernising and simplifying the CAP, it is still too soon at this stage to discuss how any concrete proposals may affect specific sectors.
What I can tell you at this stage is that I believe risk management tools will need to be reinforced. I will also fight to avoid significant reductions to the overall support given to the sector.
Long-term sustainability, environmental protection and adaptation to climate change are also going to be on my radar. In this context – as I mentioned earlier - we should look carefully at the development of resistant varieties.
The next step in the process is a large conference which takes place in Brussels tomorrow to analyse the results of the recent public consultation on the future CAP.
I will take stock of the results and produce a Communication later this year outlining options for a more modern, more simplified and more sustainable CAP. I count on your support to make the case for a strong and well-funded EU agri-food policy truly fit for the challenges of the 21st Century.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, let me once again thank you for inviting me here today. Wine is a sector of huge strategic importance for the European agri-economy, and for the future of our rural areas.
My services and I are always available to engage with you, so that together we can guarantee a profitable and sustainable future for our proud European wine sector. Thank you.