On 1 July, the presidency of the EU council officially passes from Greece to Italy for the next six months. This presidency occurs at a particularly historic moment in which the EU institutions are to be reformed, beginning with the eighth legislature of the European parliament. As such, from the beginning of July until the end of the year there will be no lack of events and challenges in which European agriculture is increasingly seen as the protagonist. First of all there will be the new regulations governing organic production and the labelling of organic products.
The aim of the proposal, presented by the commission in March, is, on the one hand, to increase transparency for food and for consumer confidence, and on the other, to guarantee fair competition for farmers and remove obstacles to the sustainable development of organic production. This measure will be implemented as soon as it has been passed by parliament and will be subject to amendments and additions, representing a solid step towards the consolidation of quality as the lynchpin for prospects of growth for European agribusiness.
This not only has a bearing on organic farming: the contents of the Italian presidency's work agenda will most likely include the business activities of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership between Europe and the US - an extraordinary opportunity to create a highly important area for world trade. This may only be fully grasped when the parties manage to rise above their differences and establish a common goal. In a situation such as this, the implications for the agri-food sector will play a decisive role. The abolition of non-tariff barriers to certain agricultural products, the animal breeding of certain species, and the protection of certified quality production, for example, will be a few of the main, decisive elements in the satisfactory performance and final outcome of negotiations.
However, the next few months will also be important in preparing the groundwork for a series of agricultural policy events that are featured on the recently-launched agenda for legislation. Reform of the European fruit and vegetable sector and the period of reflection (already under way) on the management of the dairy sector, which will no longer be subject to the production quota system from March, are, in this sense, two issues for which a path of work and assessment should immediately be followed.
At the same time, it will be important to begin reflecting seriously on what the most likely focal point will be in European agricultural policy options over the next five years - that is to say, the mid-term review of the common agricultural policy - a path starting with an impact assessment, followed by guidelines and likely proposals for legislation for continuing the reform correction work approved last year and updating it in a general, constantly changing and evolving context.
As this process has only just begun, there will be no lack of challenges and events in the agricultural sector during this presidency. Italy, one of the main agricultural economies in the union and world leader in agri-food quality, I am certain, will lead the way responsibly and with commitment and achieve significant results - all the more so since Italy is due to host Expo 2015 in Milan, the theme of which will be 'feeding the planet'. In this context, parliament will not fail to contribute to defending and supporting an agricultural sector capable of reading and translating the needs of a diverse, complex global environment, while constantly putting the protection of consumers and support for European farmers first.