Nein to olive oil and United EU

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Germany and its northern allies could not tolerate that olive oil, the product of southern Europe, would finally find its proper place that is in sealed branded small containers on the restaurant, hotel and café table. Very much resembling a coup, the legal process that had been going over the last months through all intermediate stages and had overcome all opposition including that of WTO, was overthrown. So, at the very moment that the amendment of Reg. 29/2012 should be making its way to the Official Journal in Brussels, the Great Powers intervened.

The Regulation therefore changes and small containers will not be mandatory, but will lie to the discretion of the establishment. In other words the old regime still holds well and the proverbial “vinaigrette” bottles, which leave olive oil vulnerable to enemies such as heat, light, humidity and fraud and which most of the time, contain old product remain unchallenged. It is the first time as far as I can remember (over the past 33 years) in the history of the EU (but also the EC) that the political power of certain countries imposes, in such an inelegant fashion, their interests, slashing at one of the three pillars, that of the Commission, which is a much more democratic institution than most believe (although that’s another big discussion).

The blietzkrieg of the past week
It is a sad fact that when the new regulation passed through the last hurdles of WTO and the European Management Committee, then, a coordinated communicative war began, with identical articles appearing and being reproduced in many countries from Germany and Denmark to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, those articles were also reproduced in most Mediterranean olive producing countries. Unexpectedly the whole of Europe “discovered” the English Representative to the European Parliament, Ms Marina Yannakoudakis, who after criticizing the Regulation of the European Commission pointed out that the problem of Southern Europe, is not its olive oil but the euro. Within this framework, and under these pressures the UK, which had originally voted white thus making it easier for the Regulation to pass, changed its standing and aligned with Germany.

Consumer protection
All this is taking place at the aftermath of the horse meat scandal. A logical assumption would be, that these “sensitive” to the protection of consumer health countries, should have realized that this type of protection simply cannot be left upon the good will of those who either through ignorance or self-interest speculate on it. Neither can it be accomplished for free, without any cost, or bureaucracy.

The Greek position
The Greek position should be only one. The provisional application of the regulation should become mandatory in the greek Joint Ministerial Decision, just as it is in Portugal during the past few years.
We should start preparing the Joint Ministerial Decision straightaway so that it can come to force as of 1/1/2014.
For those who are uncertain, whether the mandatory use of sealed containers, is to the advantage and in the interest or not of Greek olive oil, we would only like to point out very briefly the following:
1. The freedom of the consumer/costumer or restaurateur is not affected. The Regulation does not oblige either to offer or use olive oil. However, in case that it is being provided, then it should be in a hermetically sealed container and not in an open one that could be refilled.
2. The proverbial vinegraitte bottles have become, most of the time, a negative advertisement for olive oil. In particular the unfamiliar tourist can get a very wrong impression when a few drops of bad olive oil ruin a well grilled fish or a freshly cut salad.
3. A major proportion of Greek olive oil that is nowadays directed towards Italy in bulk at low prices, could find its way into HORECA. This would be directly in favor of olive producers, as they would be offered a higher price for their olive oil. It would also be in favor, of the 310 medium sized packaging companies, that are scattered all over Greece. Any conspiracy theory that the regulation is in favor of multinational companies is proof only to ignorance of the sector. To the contrary, these smaller, regional enterprises would come to blossom.
4. A very important part of the Greek 100-150 thousand tons of bulk olive oil, would be absorbed in the internal market, would be branded and show added value, offering at the same time, a culinary delight to consumers/costumers at a slight added cost.

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