Elected representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first of all thank Anja and Sonia for inviting me here today. We met in Denmark in June of this year, and I was very pleased to accept the invitation to visit North Brabant.
I'm delighted to be here with you, and I am sure you will do an excellent job as one of the European Regions of Gastronomy in 2018, along with Galway from the country I know best.
You are a region with a strong focus on agrifood. North Brabant is not only an area with a proud agricultural tradition, it is equally an area that has always been a leader when it comes to agricultural innovation.
Earlier today I visited Wageningen University, which epitomises these qualities superbly.
And very importantly you are bridging the gap between urban and rural. You have 5 large cities in strong cooperation with your rural areas – this is one of the priorities I have been pushing at European level.
We need to build stronger linkages between urban and rural areas if we are to succeed in generating a truly bottom-up approach to building innovative and vibrant food systems.
Gastronomy, and a shared appreciation for good quality food and food production is an important step on that journey.
My work takes me all over the world, and I've come to a few conclusions about European gastronomy:
The first is simple: the quality and safety of our food and drink really is the best in the world.
I've also noted how very proud people are of their local and regional specialities.
People are delighted when the area they come from is identified with a high quality product. And they are willing to pay more for that guarantee of quality.
There are so many great gastronomic initiatives happening across Europe, like Dutch Agrifood Week.
They give visibility to regions doing new and exciting things, like North Brabant, and they also create a network to allow people to share their ideas and experiences.
From my point of view as Agriculture Commissioner, they also tell a story to a wider audience about the importance of the CAP and the food chain. We need to reconnect all our citizens – particularly our urban friends – to the amazing heritage of our agri-food traditions.
We need to bring the public with us, if we are to build a sustainable and innovative food production system fit for the 21st Century. And your work will be an important step on that journey.