Origin of wheat and rice, unnecessary chaos

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On the decrees requiring mandatory indication of origin of wheat in pasta and rice, the Italian government has created unnecessary chaos. Let’s see why.

Wheat and rice origin, Rome-Brussels one way.

On the origin of rice and wheat in pasta, the Italian government had at the time notified the European Commission of two special draft decrees. (1)

Ministers Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda, however, after receiving informal news of objections from Brussels, decided to discontinue the European consultation procedure.

The aforementioned ministers thus decided to publish the decrees-both dated July 26, 2017-in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic. (2) In defiance of applicable European rules, (3) and the first pillar on which the Treaty itself is based. The principle of free movement of goods, thanks to which Italy still distributes 2/3 of its food and beverage exports to Europe. (4)

The aforementioned decrees made a one-way trip, Rome-Brussels. But without validation of the return ticket by the European controller, the fine will be inevitable. In fact, the Commission will have to initiate two procedures (so-called EU-pilot), in order to induce Palazzo Chigi to take milder advice. And failing that, follow up with infringement proceedings, which tend to end in exemplary penalties.

The short-term scenario

Pasta and rice origin decrees count as waste paper. However good and useful a national regulation may be, it cannot be done without the notification and subsequent green light from the European Commission, following consultation with member states. Otherwise, there is a violation of the EU Treaty, which in the hierarchy of sources of law ranks above the Constitution itself. (5)

Civil serv ants have a duty to disapply unnotified regulations, judges to declare them null and void. Without being able to do anything else except incur liability themselves.

What future?

Of the two, either Ministers Martina and Calenda will withdraw the decrees – blaming Europe for their improper actions – or Italy will face two infringement procedures in Europe. To which could be added the WTO’s axe, thanks to the U.S. and Canada, with whom the same ministers have been at pains to conclude the CETA agreement.

A mockery of consumers and farmers that could have been avoided, with simple compliance with the ‘Europa condominium regulations’ that insiders know well. (6) Made in Italy is the most globally recognized food brand, and that is precisely why it must be handled seriously.

The question remains as to why Carlo Calenda — former right-hand man of Luca di Montezemolo, then leader of Confindustria — participated in the mess that puts the entire country-system in trouble. Its businesses especially, exposed to the uncertainty of arrogantly proclaimed though illegitimate regulations. Cui prodest? (7)

Dario Dongo

 

Notes

(1) Pursuant to reg. EU 1169/11, Article 45

(2) pasta origin on http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2017/08/17/17A05704/sg, rice origin on http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2017/08/16/17A05698/sg

(3) Directive 98/34/EC, as amended, in turn requires notification to the European Commission of any national technical standard outline affecting the production and marketing of goods, as well as the provision of certain services

(4) SEE http://mobile.ilsole24ore.com/solemobile/main/art/impresa-e-territori/2017-08-10/-made-italy-alimentare-record-storico-l-export–155729.shtml?uuid=AEHJgWBC

(5) For good memory, recall the previous ‘holes in the water’ of Laws 204/04 and 4/2011

(6) Perhaps even with some forethought when drafting the standards. See http://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/category/notizie /origine-quale-grano-nella-pasta-il-mipaaf-al-lavoro-su-nuovo-schema-normativo
(7) Perhaps Renziloni’s team is preparing to foment euroskepticism among voters in order to counter the center-right’s leading candidate Antonio Tajani, an ironclad pro-European as well as current president of the European Parliament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.