Chief executive Mr Göde, Mayor Müller, Minister Schmidt, President Rukwied, Ladies and gentlemen,
Good Evening, it's a pleasure to be here with you in Berlin for International Green Week.
This is my third visit to Green Week as Commissioner, and on each occasion I am struck by the great atmosphere, the amazing innovations and products on display, and the high quality of discussions and panels. It's no wonder that this fair attracts so many people from all over the world.
I want to wish the best of luck to Hungary, which is the official partner country of this year's Green Week. I was impressed by today's presentation of your country, and I am even more eager to see your presentations at the opening of the fair tomorrow. I am sure you will do a great job.
Green Week is a unique fair which serves multiple purposes:
It generates a huge interest for trade visitors, with over 1,500 exhibitors showcasing more than 100,000 products from all over the world;
It brings together key politicians and policy influencers - over 60 agricultural ministers and two Commissioners will attend, contributing to an extensive programme of seminars and conferences;
There is significant media interest - over 5,000 journalists from 70 countries are accredited for Green Week each year. They will spread the important messages far and wide.
But above all, Green Week inspires huge engagement with citizens. This is of paramount importance, because we need the backing of as many people as possible – particularly our urban citizens - in order to empower our farmers and rural communities for the challenges ahead.
Citizens are more conscious than ever of what they eat and drink, and how that food and drink was produced. So we know they are receptive to learning more about sustainable food production. Almost half a million people will visit Green Week, and it is vitally important that we as policymakers make strong arguments to persuade these citizens to support the sustainable agri-food policies we want to implement.
As European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, I have been quite clear that farmers and the broader agri-food sector must play a full and frontline role in delivering on societal expectations for environmentally sustainable food production.
But it is also equally important that citizens understand farming and how much skilled work and dedication is necessary to produce high quality food while contributing to climate and environment preservation. The Green Week is an excellent opportunity to increase this mutual understanding.
Farmers have worked in tune with nature and the environment around them since the beginning of time. Farming men and women understand the language of the seasons and must work hard to master it. Anyone who grew up on a dairy farm, as I did, knows that getting up before the dawn to milk the cows on a winter's morning is tough, but necessary.
I put it to you that no-one understands the environment better than farmers. Therefore it seems self-evident that farmers must be on the frontline of our efforts to fight global warming and promote sustainability.
The Common Agricultural Policy which governs European food production has in recent decades started to take its green obligations seriously.
We are investing heavily in research and innovation in the sector. There are endless improvement that can be made when it comes to food production, food storage, and food distribution.
And these innovations need to be used in practice. The Green Week is a unique opportunity in this context. I am looking forward to the opening tour of the fair tomorrow, where we will as usual see excellent innovations and technologies for reducing nutrient leakage, improving the energy efficiency of on-farm vehicles, or new ways of processing food, to name but a few.
All these innovations will play their part. But they will only make a decisive contribution when two elements are brought into play.
First, farmers have to take responsibility for driving the change. Secondly, and just as importantly, citizens and policymakers must accept that maintaining high standards of food quality and safety cannot be married to farmers doing more for the environment, unless we specifically incentivise farmers for doing this work.
Who is better placed than farmers to lead the way in improving water and soil conservation?
Who is better placed than farmers to lead the way in creating truly sustainable food production systems?
Who is better placed than farmers to lead the way in meeting rising global food demand?
And many of the tools that will be required to meet this challenge can be viewed right here at International Green Week. But let us be very clear: tools are one element – policy support is another one. Farmers need policy support and the Common Agricultural Policy has bolstered European agriculture for more than 50 years.
But the European Commission knows that the CAP can do more and do better. That is why in December 2016 President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a roadmap to begin designing the European Agriculture Policy of the future.
The President and I announced that the Commission will publish a Communication on the future of the CAP by the end of 2017.
And this process will begin shortly with a wide-ranging public consultation. Our aim is to look ways how to modernise and simplify the CAP. I am well aware of the complexity of our policy and I am dedicated to making the CAP simpler, for the benefit of European farmers.
These topics and others will feature prominently during this year's Green Week. And even though this is a citizens' fair, the political importance of the Grüne Woche cannot be underestimated. There is hardly any other event in the world that brings together so many high-level policy-makers in the field of food and farming. It is an excellent opportunity to exchange views and to discuss policy strategy.
In this context, I will participate in a panel discussing how to build a sustainable future for Europe's rural areas. This is a follow-up event to the Cork 2.0 Conference of 2016, where a coalition of rural stakeholders launched a 10 point plan for the future of EU rural areas. I look forward to hearing good ideas as to how we can help rural areas to unlock their full potential.
The question of water and food security will also feature prominently in a number of debates, including under the auspices of the Global Forum for Agriculture and G20.
Developing smart water policy is a defining challenge of this century. Water is a scarce resource and we have to join forces in order to protect and enhance this precious good. I am glad that we will have time over the next days to discuss this burning question in-depth in various meetings also at ministerial level.
And finally I want to encourage you all to visit the European Commission "from farm to fork" stand, which showcases the added value of the European Union in providing citizens with safe, sustainable and quality food.
I wish all of you a successful, interesting and enlightening Grüne Woche. Thank you