[Check Against Delivery]
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
A modern farming sector, producing in line with society's expectations
Opening Ceremony - International Green Week
Berlin, 16 January 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here at the opening of the Green Week.
This year will be a year of important decisions for the future of the European Union. I am thinking here in particular of the European Parliament elections and the discussions that will take place during the campaign. The EU is in a perpetual state of construction and needs clear perspectives for the future.
The Common Agriculture Policy – especially through the reform which we recently decided – offers a European perspective to a sector which has a very strong impact on our daily lives – in the form of agriculture and food. And this is what you celebrate every year in such an exemplary way here at the Grüne Woche.
Together with the 28 Member States and the European Parliament, we have reformed the CAP. This reform reflects choices already made – to encourage farmers to produce what consumers want and not what public authorities decide.
At the same time, we wanted to encourage farmers to take into account not only our choices as consumers – healthy, safe, quality and affordable products – but also our choices as citizens, with concerns for the environment and our future.
Following the turn of the century, the EU set itself far-reaching objectives: traceability of food products, animal welfare, restrictions on certain substances such as hormones in livestock production.
Today, with greening, which fosters sustainable agricultural practices at EU level, we are going one step further to meet the challenges of regenerating our natural resources, which are both an economic benefit and a public good.
These two elements – taking account of consumer expectations and our capacity to regenerate natural productive resources in a sustainable way - are two interlinked features of the competitiveness of modern farming: not only to produce, but also to be in line with society's expectations.
They are two essential components of the ‘Made in Europe’ label – which give an identity to our agri-food sector throughout the world.
In order to modernise our agriculture, taking into account the economic and sustainability challenges, we need to give greater emphasis to 2 factors: - innovation and youth. Or, rather, innovation in agriculture through the regeneration of the sector. Young farmers naturally bring innovative and progressive ideas in line with society. At present, only 6% of the EU’s farmers are under 35 years of age.
That's why the new CAP will support innovation, applied research and generational renewal.
But farmers must be able to make a comfortable living from their work - and society must be made more aware of the value of their dedication and commitment.
This is why the European Commission has recently proposed to redefine and strengthen the promotion of EU agri-food products, both within the EU and on international markets. We are proposing to triple the budget allocated to promotion actions by 2020.
On the internal market we must ensure that the level of food safety and quality demanded from our farmers is better known. Consumers must be well-informed when they make their choices.
At international level, equally, the stakes are high for our agri-food sector, centred in particular exports of high added-value, quality, processed products.
Our trade policy must be based on the obvious assets of our agri-food products (and this Fair here in Berlin is one more proof that these assets exist). It should not rely on public policy tools to support exports, which risk affecting the capacity of others to develop their own agriculture, especially in less developed countries.
Since 1 January, EU legislation is also very clear: export refunds have ceased to exist as a means of systematically supporting a sector. Moreover, I would like to tell you this evening, in the framework of preferential partnership agreements with African countries: I am prepared to go one step further. I am ready to propose to stop, once and for all, the use of export refunds to those developing country destinations – even in times of crisis when this instrument can still be used. This commitment will bring our agricultural policy fully into line with EU development policy.
Guided by all these factors, the EU has ambitious plans for its agricultural sector, and remains optimistic.
The EU is gearing up to help its farmers to accommodate everything they need to be competitive, building on the asset of the diversity of its production models and their compatibility with the expectations of society.
I am sure that the German farming sector will be spearheading this new development, given its inexhaustible capacity to respond to challenges and adapt to change.