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14/12/2010

Answer to written question on making the most of Europe's wine industry

Question on naking the most of Europe's wine industry117 Christophe Béchu (PPE)

Wine is one of the constituent elements in a specifically European civilisation stretching all the way from Spain to Romania and as far north as England. It is a ‘sensitive product' that reflects people's ties with the land: ‘the fond ideas of rootedness associated with [wine] are very widely shared in Europe'. A ‘symbol of civilisation' par excellence, it is also — to quote sociologist Marcel Mauss — a ‘comprehensive social reality', shaping territory, behaviour and social relationships.

A recent study highlights ‘identity issues underlying European integration and the intensification of trade at world level'. These fast-moving processes have produced radical changes that seem more like forms of social disintegration than anything else. As a result of freedom of movement, the wine industry's workforce has become much more cosmopolitan: the Languedoc-Roussillon region, for example, is known as ‘little Europe'. Centres of trade have shifted and the roles of elected representatives and of the state have changed. These developments have had a major impact on the way people form their identities.

Wine growers are particularly hostile to the European Union, accusing it of having lost touch with its grassroots. ‘Brussels' is cast in the role of the barbarian, the interfering outsider, and wine, as the ‘totem drink' in the words of Roland Barthes, is a ready focus for all the anxieties of cultural loss.

Given the challenge posed by the wine industry in Europe, how does the Council intend to go about protecting and making the most of European skills and, indeed, European savoir-vivre?

E-5958/10

The Council shares the opinion of the Honourable Member of Parliament that wine production is a long-standing and vital activity in European agriculture and indeed represents important historic and cultural values for the EU.

Production and marketing of wine in the world has been subject to great changes over the past decades, both at regional and global level. In order to link EU policy with new realities and challenges, the Council adopted on 29 April 2008 Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2008[1] on the common organisation for the market in wine, in order to restructure the European wine sector. The Regulation, which entered into force on 1 August 2008, aims at increasing the competitiveness of EU wine producers, including through measures to better promote European wines in third countries and labelling rules for the benefit of both producers and consumers: existing Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designations of Origin remain, but producers are also allowed to indicate their wines' grape variety and vintage on the label.

At the international level, the Council attaches great importance to the interests of European wine growers and producers, in particular in the ongoing WTO-DDA negotiations and in the trade negotiations with Mercosur.

[1] OJ L 148, 6.6.2008, p. 1