The EESC hearing on 14 February 2017 was an opportunity for all people who were interested in rural issues to meet, present work in progress and exchange ideas and knowledge – and get inspired by examples of successful projects and initiatives in other rural communities. Together we thought of better ways to empower the rural communities to play their full part in addressing vital policy areas such as food security, renewable energy, environmental protection and job creation.
The EESC has received a request from the incoming Dutch EU Presidency for an exploratory opinion on how to achieve more sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental, economic and social impact of unsustainable food chains. Globally, about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Food is also one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures. The hearing will represent an opportunity to hear from experts and stakeholders about their views and initiatives for a transition to more sustainable food systems in Europe. The discussion will take a holistic and systemic approach by considering the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability and the importance of cross-sectoral co-operation across the food supply chain.
On 9 November 2016 the EESC and CoR organised a conference on balanced territorial development entitled "Cork+20: leaving rural areas behind is no longer an option". At stake was the European Commission's new rural development strategy, which would normally have to be inspired by the new Cork 2.0 Declaration that has been co-signed by stakeholders at the Cork conference on 5-6 September 2016.
Now is the time to put the Cork 2.0 Declaration into action.
The EESC opinion is the organized civil society's contribution to the follow-up of the Conference. At the public hearing on 3 May we discussed concrete actions for implementing the measures of the declaration. The trend towards a systematic prioritarization of urban areas across the whole set of EU sectoral policies must be reversed!
This public hearing will discuss the current state of multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture. After the Nairobi agreement of export competition, some progress could be made on the areas of market access (tariffs and quotas) and, to some extent, on domestic support.
The agro-food supply chain connects important and diverse sectors of the European economy that are essential for economic, social and environmental welfare as well as for the health of European citizens. Over recent years, there has been a shift in bargaining power in the supply chain, mostly to the advantage of the retail sector and to the detriment of primary producers. The position of the most vulnerable actors, such as farmers, should therefore be addressed, in particular by ensuring that prices that allow the farmer to make a fair profit are paid throughout the agro-food supply chain and by putting an end to unfair trading practices.
Soil is crucial to our livelihoods, as it supplies us with food, fibre, fuel and raw materials. We certainly consider it to be an issue of strategic importance, and not only as an environmental issue but also as a key element of sustainable economic growth in Europe.