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Eurocare response to the Evaluation of the EU agricultural promotion policy

EU promotion policy for agricultural products should not support promotion of alcohol. Public health perspectives should always be weighed into evaluations, especially when the beneficiaries of a policy are producers of alcoholic beverages.

European agricultural policies are important tools to support farmers’ livelihood and sustainable rural development. However, EU policies must be coherent and cannot be evaluated according to economic metrics alone: Public health must be number one priority.

Wine promotion subsidies over the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are aimed primarily at increasing European wines’ competitiveness in non-EU countries through activities such as information campaigns, market studies and participation at wine fairs abroad.
The European Commission public consultation of EU Agricultural promotion policy is part of the evaluation that will assess the Union's reformed agricultural promotion policy. In particular, it will investigate the measures adopted under the 2016, 2017 and 2018 annual work programmes, including both promotion programmes (promotion actions in the EU market and in third countries, put forward by proposing organisations), as well as measures carried out at the initiative of the Commission (high level missions, trade fairs, own campaigns and technical support services). The evaluation covers Member States and third countries where promotion measures are implemented. The contributions gathered through this public consultation will contribute to the preparation of the report on information provision and promotion measures concerning agricultural products implemented in the internal market and in third countries. The Commission must submit the report by 31 December 2020 to the European Parliament and to the Council.

The CAP features two parallel schemes for wine promotion. One is regulated over Reg (EU) 1308/2013 and amounts to nearly €250 million in 2018.[1] Another one is regulated over Reg (EU) 1144/2014 and has financed more than €22 million in wine related promotion since its inception in 2014.[2] There is a clear trend of increasing budgets for both these schemes. In the following, we will focus mainly on the former. These promotional measures, draining millions of euros from the EU budget, jeopardize public health, create market distortions, and occasionally camouflage serious misuse of funds by the beneficiaries. Furthermore, the European Court of Auditors have questioned the role of EU grants to promote wine, citing lack of demonstrable results over the scheme’s lifetime.

Worryingly, the wine industry’s promotional activities heavily rely on marketing in social media that does not differentiate between youth and adult users. And so kids and youth below legal drinking age are exposed to messages that encourage them to drink European wine. The earlier youth start drinking the worse are the long-term health consequences.[3]

The subsidies favour Europe’s big wine producing countries: Almost 90 percent of the funds are awarded to Spain, France and Italy, a situation that reinforces these countries’ grip of consumer markets. In the short history of EU’s wine promotion funds, many cases of serious misuse of funds have been exposed. Despite single farmers being sanctioned, the misconduct continues – which brings the whole scheme into question.

The EU should phase out this expensive market intervention, which could save at least €1000 million per financial period (the amount that was paid in promotion subsidies to producers over the current five-year period).[4] Instead, the grubbing-up scheme should be reintroduced, which pays the wine farmers in cash in exchange for permanent uprooting of their vines. Unlike wine promotion subsidies, it has proven to be an effective measure in stemming the overproduction of wine.

EUROCARE POSITION – LIMIT WINE PROMOTION SUBSIDIES Eurocare’s five recommendations concerning EU’s wine promotion subsidies
•                   While we are supportive of promotional measures for agricultural products that are components of a healthy diet, wine – as a product with scientifically proven health risks – should not be considered a priority product.
•                   In the evaluation of project proposals, public health perspectives must be taken into consideration next to the other evaluation criteria.
•                   No promotional measures should be funded that expose youth to alcohol advertisement, in particular using social media.
•                   The principle should be strictly enforced that no promotional activities should be funded that the beneficiary would have undertaken regardless of EU support.
•                   The EU should enforce tighter scrutiny of the disbursed funds to combat fraudulent use of the subsidies.
[1] European Commission, 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
[2] European Commission, 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
[3] Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
[4] On the assumption of no budget cuts in the wine NSP promotion subsidies (€1009 million in 2014-2018).

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