Thank you so much. I take the chance that ecological food have given you energy and concentration power so that you are able to catch up with some of the ideas I would like to stress.
First of all – Ladies and Gentlemen let me welcome you to this last and very important plenary session of the European Conference Organic Food and Farming – “Towards Partnership and Action in Europe”. I am very happy that Ritt Bjerregaard has asked me to share my views with you today.
As you know Ritt and I have known each other in many, many years and fought together on what we believe in.
You see I believe that politics is to change when our surrounding conditions change.
You have to use your political life to make a difference. If you don’t, I would make the standpoint that you are not fulfilling your obligations.
The Danish government is honoured that so many ministers, representatives and ministries and the Commission and other interested parties around Europe have decided to attend this Conference. This clearly underlines the wish for a sustainable agriculture and food production in Europe.
In particularly I would like to forward a warm welcome to the ministers represented here today from the countries with which we have very, very close connections.
I am also very pleased that our friends from the candidate countries, applying for participation in the European Union, are here today. I think this demonstrates in a very dynamic way and in a very, very fundamental way the enlargement process and that we share the values of a more sustainable Europe.
A Europe based on not only a sustainable agricultural sector and food production, but also on a sustainable economic prosperity and peace. I think that is what people expect of us – to formulate political alliances to political challenges.
It is correct as Ritt Bjerregaard said that in my opening speech last year in October to the Danish Parliament I stressed the importance to have political answers to the state of insecurity and worries among ordinary people and consumers. It is a part of a more general approach we are dealing with now.
I think that a great part of our populations are worried about the future and we should not criticise them for that. We should as responsible politicians try to find answers to their worries. I think that it is correct to say that global insecurity demands global policy and that European insecurity among European people demands European policy.
We shall find fundamental answers to these worries here in Europe. And let me also stress in this little speech, that talking about sustainable agriculture in Europe and talking about organic food and farming is not a time-limited trend or a bypassing fashion phenomenal, which will pass away like a business circle. I have heard somebody having this opinion and I disagree.
I think that the time has come that sounds projects and organic food is for all of us. My political fundamental standpoint is that it is with organic food and sounds products as it is with everything else in this society. We should create the framework so that all people can enjoy the latest knowledge and production qualities we have developed together.
The modern consumer demands high quality food products. Products that are characterised by high effects on environmental issues and animal welfare and products of high quality and which have a good genuine taste. I see this as a new dimension also to the many, many years for all development in the way we produce agricultural products. It is not a nostalgic trend we have now, it is a new face of agricultural production.
Farmers should - and I also think that they have a fundamental interest in it – deliver what consumers demand. Therefore I am convinced that there is no alternative to a greener and more sustainable food production.
Organic production has as a matter of fact proved to be one of the best methods to provide these goods to the consumer. Increasing supply of organic products is also a result of a genuine political priority that has been endorsed by measures at EU-level. And I am, Ladies and Gentlemen, proud to say that my government has supported the development of organic production - with remarkable success. I am happy to see that the President of Farmers is here today also to underline this important issue.
I think it is fair to say that a stronger organic sector should form an important part of future agriculture.
We should encourage the integration of methods and principals from the organic sector to be used and integrated into the agricultural traditional sector.
May I underline Ladies and Gentlemen that I don’t see organic agriculture and conventional agriculture as contradictions. I think it is fair to say that organic agricultural contributes to improvements within the conventional farming sector – thus giving a positive spin-off effect.
Hence, the future benefits of organic farming lies to a large extent in an increased supply of sound products of a high quality.
In my country here in Denmark we have proven that organic agriculture is also compatible with relative large farms and with very efficient production systems. We have proven that organic agriculture can deliver the necessary supply of sound products of a high quality that the consumer demands.
I would like also to underline that the organic agriculture society deserves our full respect and recognition for their courage to think and act differently.
Organic agriculture also forms an important element in the context of a broader political goal of a comprehensive reform of our Common Agricultural Policy in Europe.
When it comes to our heart of CIP it is trying to recognise also that we have not finalised all the changes as far as CIP is concerned which we formulated in Berlin. We will be faced by new changes.
The regional and global challenges that we face, leaves us no other choice than a pressuring reform process. Let me mention that the WTO-negotiations on global trade will intensify and put even more pressure on the existing support-schemes. And let me add that the enlargement-process will require willingness and ability to modernise agriculture in both the existing and new member countries of the European Union.
Furthermore we have to realise that not all questions about the modernisation of the agriculture sector in Europe can be solved by agriculture policy alone.
In some areas structural aid and the reallocation of labour to other sectors will inevitably be a key element in a solution.
This is a challenge to the European Union and we will have to face and handle a challenge where all parties have to contribute. It will require serious very serious efforts and we will have to strike a number of sensitive balances. It will not be easy, but I do not doubt that this will be the direction.
Ladies and Gentlemen I think that the decision to organise this conference was based on a vision of Europe characterised by agriculture production methods in harmony with nature – not as a nostalgic goal, but as a modernised offer to ordinary people. We need to ensure food quality – food safety and animal welfare.
Thus this conference builds on the important work and conclusions of the Vienna Conference on organic farming in May 1999.
In order to realise the full environmental and economic potential of the organic agriculture, a high degree of European partnership and action is needed.
However, until now, there has not been a platform for the full range of partnership to formulate a common European agricultural strategy.
Ritt Bjerregaard’s and my vision is that an action – a European Action Plan should be initiated - thereby uniting the partners and ensuring that a set of consensus oriented recommendations are produced.
The fact that a wide range of European governments are represented here today constitutes a unique opportunity to secure that the vision of Europe and a European Action Plan can be realised. That we in Europe, together again as we have done so many times before, make a difference. That we in Europe recognise that some problems can not be solved in our countries alone – but that we have to unify again to formulate a common political answer as we have done before. That we recognise that Europe again has to take the leadership also with global effects on these fundamental issues.
Common political answers to common challenges have always been a very foundation of the European Union and here we are again.
A European Action Plan supported by so many countries and important organisations such as COPA, IFOAM and the European Environmental Bureau must lead to sub stainable results.
Therefore we must look closer into the possibilities of promoting the organic farming and food production in Europe as part of the process to ensure a greater integration of environmental concerns in agriculture and food production.
With these few words I once more would like to that what you are doing at this conference is of importance. That you are making a difference. I wish you good luck in your very important job and I hope you will enjoy the remaining stay here in our country.
Thank you very much for your attention and good luck.