The day before yesterday, on 3 May, the Assembly of European Wine Regions (AREV) organised a well-attended Webinar on the new CAP and also on the transitional measures pending the new CAP in the light of the latest events.  The event was attended by a panel of speakers from the European Parliament, the European Commission, representatives of the governments of the European regions, and professionals from the sector, who shared important messages about the situation of the wine sector and its future.

In the name of the entire European wine sector, Francisco Martínez Arroyo, Secretary-General of the AREV and Regional Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Rural Development opened the webminar. “We are living in a difficult moment“, he began.

Faced with the accumulation of blows of fate (from the Covid-19 pandemic to the latest spring frosts, with an eye to the Trump tax and the BREXIT), the AREV has not ceased to ask the European Commission for a concrete plan of exceptional aid to support the vineyards: “the viability of the sector depends on this aid“, supports Francisco Martínez.

MEP Pina PICIERNO indicated that although the drafting of the new CAP planned for 2023 was progressing in a constructive trialogue between the Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament, there were still many points to be clarified. “The next weeks of negotiations will be crucial to decide on probably the most important points, such as eco-schemes, social conditionality, limits on direct payments, and the crisis reserve“. MEP Pina PICIERNO concluded: “We are confident that the negotiations will be concluded soon, but it will require a final effort from the co-legislators to find a good deal.”

MEP Irene Tolleret. Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Wine, Spirits and Quality foodstuffs in the European Parliament stressed that “this is the first time I have seen presidents of cooperative wineries telling me that there will be suicides and that they do not know how to install young people. “

Despite initial estimates of damage from France, Italy, and Eastern Europe amounting to €5 billion, João ONOFRE, head of the European Commission’s wine unit, replied: “Where do you think the Commission can find money in the budget? It’s clear, it just doesn’t exist.” 

Thierry COSTE, former president of COPA-Cogeca and winegrower from Languedoc, gave an emotional and intense testimony, and called on the European Commission to come and see the vineyard to feel the reality of the dramatic situation. “This increase in the frequency and violence of climatic events, which comes on top of the Covid, the Trump taxes, and the surreal insecurity of the Brexit, means that I have seen some big guys crying.”

Thierry COSTE indicated that it was by no means certain that the wine sector would be able to get out of it.  In any case, if nothing is done, or if only a little is done, whole sections of European wine growing will disappear forever.   “The sector requires extraordinary funding. Of course, we know that there are many constraints on the European budget. But there are extraordinary funds and funds allocated for the European recovery,” adds Angel Villafranca Lara, the President of the Spanish federation of agri-food cooperatives  (Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias España).

Nothing is written for the future. The sector is going through a difficult period,” replies Thierry Coste, who recalls that “winegrowing could have disappeared completely from the planet at the end of the 19th century, it was the phylloxera crisis. It was a stroke of luck that a vine grew in Florida. If we hadn’t had that, wine would have disappeared and become part of history, like the dodo“.  For the former president of COPA COGECA, the ball can fall on either side of the net and win the match, or it can fall on the wrong side and cause the disappearance of a whole section of European viticulture. “The key to success lies with the decision-makers,” concludes Thierry Coste.

João ONOFRE of the European Commission remained “optimistic. I am sure that the wine sector will, as always, come out of this crisis. It is obvious that the last two years have not been glorious, but don’t forget that before that we had ten years of absolutely exceptional growth. Once the economy reopens with the vaccination programme that is gaining momentum throughout Europe, we can balance a frankly difficult situation. “

In conclusion AREV Vice-President and President of the European Wine Trade Council (CEPV), Aly Leonardy, “Wine is a product that is part of the history, traditions, and DNA of European culture. It is part of our landscapes and shapes them, it is the backbone of our rural territory, generating a socio-economic activity that keeps our villages alive and prevents depopulation. It is also part of the Mediterranean diet, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which, when consumed in moderation, contributes to one of the healthiest diets on the planet. It has also been declared an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. For all these reasons, the European institutions must stop and listen carefully to the demands of this sector, for which the AREV will be at their disposal to channel and energise the alternatives that they are putting forward, through the political and professional spheres of the European wine regions”.

Undoubtedly, the despair and the request for help from the professional sector, repeatedly expressed since last month by both AREV and the different wine-producing member states, became the central theme around which this webinar was developed, a symptom of the fact that there are still vital things for the sector to resolve, in the present, before the future of the CAP can be considered closed.