MEPs to debate EU wine reform

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

A controversial report that aims to water down proposals to reform
the EU wine sector will be debated by Members of the European
Parliament in Strasbourg Tuesday night.

The report, already approved by the Parliament's Agriculture Committee, says member states should be able to veto grubbing up schemes and also have continued access to distillation subsidies.

A Parliament spokesperson told​ the report had a good chance of getting through largely unscathed when put to a vote, scheduled for Wednesday.

If passed, the move would represent a Parliament rebuke of Commission wine reform plans, although Commission officials would be under no obligation to change their stance.

The Commission proposed last June to rip out 400,000 hectares of vines in an attempt to drain away Europe's 1.5bn-litre wine surplus. It spends nearly half its annual wine budget, around €500m, on distilling wines that won't sell, largely because of rising competition from the New World.

Katerina Batzeli, the socialist author of the Parliament report, said in a statement before tonight's debate: "The Commission's Communication doesn't reflect the real needs of the European wine sector.

"Its "accounting" logic of proposals on grubbing-up, on the immediate abolishment of distillations as well as on enrichment, aim only at accomplishing budget savings."

She said her report's proposals were instead focused on reinforcing quality, better marketing and an "aggressive"​ commercial policy, as well as giving greater attention to environmental protection.

Up to 70 amendments will be debated on Batzeli's report Tuesday, although only two come from major parties in the Parliament - and they are considered relatively minor points.

Large wine nations, including France, Italy and Spain, as well as winemaker groups, have already criticised the Commission for making grubbing up a central pillar of reform.

Heated debate between EU member state agriculture ministers has delayed the Commission's timetable. It had wanted to publish legal proposals last month but will now wait until June or July.

Related topics Markets Beer & cider

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