Paolo De Castro (S&D) presented during last meeting of the Committee on Agriculture & Rural Development (COMAGRI) of the European Parliament (EP), held on 29 September, the working document setting out his main areas of intervention as EP rapporteur on the revision of legislation governing EU Geographical Indications (GIs) for wine, spirit drinks & agricultural products and quality schemes for agricultural products:
- strengthening the role of producer groups;
- greater protection;
- simplification & the role of the EUIPO;
1. Strengthening the role of producer groups
The rapporteur welcomes the objective of strengthening the role of producer groups recognising that different systems are already in place in several Members States (MS), thus emphasising the need to safeguard the existing specificities and flexibilities in terms of their recognition.
Concerning their powers, MEP De Castro agrees that an increased set of responsibilities and rights should be allocated to recognised producer groups, as proposed by the European Commission (EC). Furthermore, he mentions the possibility of introducing a system of compulsory erga-omnes contributions, requiring all producers to contribute fairly to the activities performed by the recognised producer groups.
Additionally, he would like to propose the inclusion in the product specification of the obligation of indicating the name of the producer on the label of the GI product, in a clear, visible and legible way, aiming to improve producers’ bargaining power and transparency towards consumers and ensure that GIs are recognisable and distinguishable.
2. Greater protection
The EC proposal meets the intention of increasing GIs protection, especially concerning online commerce, domain name system and it covers the use of GIs as ingredients.
EP rapporteur would like, in particular, to improve the definition of ‘evocation’ that should represent only a minimum basis, not limiting the possibility for the Court of Justice of the EU to broaden its interpretation.
He proposes as well that online protection will have to become ex officio, meaning that whenever domains unfairly exploit a GI, at the request of the producer group concerned or of a national competent authority, such domains must be immediately closed or assigned to the producer group.
Finally, on GIs used as ingredients, the rapporteur anchors the use of the GI name in the name of the processed product to the authorisation of the producer group concerned or the national competent authority.
3. Simplification and the role of EUIPO
MEP De Castro’s working document stresses the importance of a clear timeframe for the Commission’s scrutiny of the GI registration. Therefore, it proposes to reduce it to five months instead of six, which could be extended by a further three months only in duly justified cases. This should contribute to speed up the examination process.
In addition, the list of Union amendments should be limited to modifications that involve restrictions on the marketing of GI products, as well as changes of names, having effects on the internal market. All other amendments, irrespective of the economic dimension of the GI, should be managed exclusively at national level, with the timeframe set at Union level and mandatory notification to the Commission. The expected consequence should be a decrease of the number of dossiers to be analysed at UE level, which will not require further technical support from EUIPO.
Concerning the role of EUIPO in the management of the system, MEP De Castro acknowledges its competences in the field of protection and promotion of GIs, elimination of infringements in the internal market, in third markets and online protection. Hence, he proposes that EUIPO should be in charge of the following:
1. adequately protecting GIs in the registration of online domains;
2. developing a Union alert system to improve the fight against online counterfeiting of GIs;
3. supporting the Commission in opposition procedures for aspects relating to intellectual property, such as conflict with trademarks;
4. developing and manage a comprehensive, open and easy-to-use European GI register, based on the current GI view platform, which should contain all the necessary information on the functioning of the GI system;
5. launching cancellation procedures for those GIs which are marketed for a significant, uninterrupted period; and
6. organising permanent networks, bringing together the competent national authorities, in order to share experiences and best practices at Union level, and representatives of producer groups, involving them also during the negotiation of international trade agreements.
Finally, he would like to propose some ad hoc derogations on the origin of feed for PDO products, allowing the minimum rates of use of feed from the production area to be temporarily modified, in order to cope with emergency conditions of a climatic, economic or geopolitical nature.
On sustainability, the S&D member of the AGRI Committee rejects the idea of adopting delegated acts laying down sustainability standards and criteria for the recognition of existing sustainability standards. He rather envisages to encourage producer groups to better communicate what they already do in terms of social and environmental sustainability, as well as animal health and welfare, in an ad hoc sustainability report accompanying their product specification, available on the Union portal. This would allow consumers to “better understand all the different quality aspects behind GI products”.
AREPO welcomes the priorities identified in this working document and is looking forward to contribute to Mr De Castro draft report, that will be officially presented at the next COMAGRI meeting on November 8th.
A vote on the draft report (amendments & final vote) is set for February-March 2023, with trilogues to continue from March until September 2023. The intention is to conclude the interinstitutional negotiations and approve the final text under the Spanish Presidency by the end of 2023.