A first read through of the whole proposal for a new EU organic regulation was concluded in October, resulting in the Italian Presidency presenting a compromise text, but no agreement was reached in the Council meeting in December. In its final report before handing over to the Latvians the Italian Presidency included some political guidelines for key outstanding issues and the Latvian Presidency continuous to work on a compromise text which will be examined in March. At the same time the European Parliament is currently discussing the draft in the committee stage, followed by plenary in May. If compromise positions can be reached, formal trilogue negotiations involving the Council, Commission and EU Parliament are expected to start in June 2015.
On the opening day of Biofach the world’s leading organic fair, the new European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, promised a fresh look and a new, solutions-oriented approach in his keynote address to the opening ceremony. Later that day, EU policymakers and organic stakeholders met at the EU Policy Day organised by IFOAM EU & BioFach, to discuss the future of the organic regulation. The message from the organic movement is clear: Organic is the only sustainable food and farming concept regulated at EU level and despite ongoing financial crisis still shows continuous growths in Europe. The organic regulation must therefore support the dynamic development of the sector and not threaten its growth.
Policy makers echoed the sector demand to find constructive solutions: Key EU policymakers repeated their commitment to listen to the sector’s needs. European Parliament rapporteur, Green MEP Martin Häusling, stated: “We don’t want a complete revision of the EU organic regulation, but a reform that will work in practice. This is our ambition in the Parliament.” Armands Krauze, Parliamentary Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Latvian Member of Parliament, restated the importance of a growing organic sector in Europe because it contributes to the delivery of the goals of the Latvian Council Presidency – sustainability, competitiveness and growth.
“However, we must remember that it´s not only about deciding on the political questions. We also must ensure that in the end there is a technically sound regulation that also simplifies the daily life for operators. At the moment, it seems that EU institutions underestimate the time needed to ensure this. IFOAM EU has offered its expertise to help get this right. But it is not possible to achieve this by June 2015,” said Sabine Eigenschink, IFOAM EU Vice President.
Per Kølster, Chairman of Organic Denmark said “the quality of the final proposal is of critical importance and this must not be compromised in the interests of speed.” He also emphasised that the sector must look to the future and think how standards could reach higher to take account of new issues and new concerns.
“It is good that the Commission has acknowledged the problems with their proposal” stated Christopher Stopes, IFOAM EU President, “There are IFOAM EU solutions on the table. We take up the offer from the EU institutions to deliver concrete solutions and are eager to continue the work with them on the practical way forward.”
The following key outstanding issues were discussed in the hearing at Defra, to inform the UK negotiating position, attended by various stakeholders from the UK organic movement round the table and on the phone.
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