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Wine Reforms Watered Down

  • December 15th, 2007
  • Posted by Sian Graham

wine-grapes.jpgAhead of legislation to be introduced at next week’s Agriculture Council meeting, Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU Agriculture Commissioner urged ministers to stand together to ensure a strong future for Europe’s flailing wine sector.

“It’s time to do a deal for a reform that will make a real difference. It’s time to do a deal because the European Union’s wine imports and production have been rising over the years while domestic consumption has been falling,”Mariann Boeltold the European Parliament.

The sweeping reforms have been modified in parts, just days ahead of the final vote by Ministers from national governments — much to the relief of many wine producers who have been running an active lobby.

Speaking at parliament on Tuesday, 11.12.07, Ms Fischer Boel said there were three big issues on which the Commission, the Presidency and most Member States must reach a consensus: the national financial envelope or budget, “chaptalisation”, and the end of the planting rights system.

The proposals are part of a wider industry reform which the Commission says is vital if EU wines are to withstand global competition from “new world” countries like Australia and New Zealand.

In June this year the Commission reported that EU wine exports to Australia were worth €62-million (A$103.5-million; dcerates.com, 28.12.07) in 2006 compared with €868-million (A$1.45-billion) in imports from Australia.

“We are hoping that if we can make our guys more competitive and improve the quality, then there will be less need to import wine because we will be producing better stuff ourselves,” EU agriculture spokesperson Michael Mann told South Africa’s SABC.

The decision to continue to allow Chaptalisation is perhaps one of the biggest successes for wine producers in the EU.

The process which involves adding sugar during the fermenting process to increase the alcohol content is common practice in many of the cooler European states.

It has been banned in Australia but most observers have agreed the idea of similar banning legislation throughout Europe would have negative impacts for processors and set back support for new reforms.

Despite making considerable concessions Ms Fischer Boel was adamant the European Commission would not be pressured by individual wine producers.

“We live in the real world, and I have shown considerable flexibility over many of my original proposals. But I won’t allow the proposals to be watered down so far that the end product loses all taste and value,” she said.

The Ministers, forming the Agriculture Council. are to meet from Monday 17.12.07 to Wednesday 19.12.07.

Reference:

European Commission, “CAP Reform: Commissioner Fischer Boel urges ministers to agree a bold wine reform”, 14.12.07.
http://www.europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/07/1933&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en (15.12.07).

EC, “European Commission and Australia initial new wine agreement”, 6.6.07.
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/07/771&format=HTML&aged=1&language=EN&guiLanguage=en (15.12.07).

SABC News, “EU’s wine industry reform proposal rejected”, 14.12.07.
http://www.sabcnews.com/world/europe/0,2172,160941,00.html (15.12.07).

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