Friday, 24 May 2013

"Big Oil! How the EU works...a reminder


There has been a hoo-hah about the proposal to force restauranteurs to sell only factory-produced and approved olive oil. It hasn't quite been described this way rather as a ban on those cute little dipping bowls and in unlabelled bottles. The proposal has been dropped  - a welcome and unusual reaction (I guess that the EU was found out). And this is what the industrial olive oil folk have to say:

Copa-Cogeca, a farming association that represents industrial olive oil producers who would have benefited from the ban by getting a higher price for factory packaged bottles, attacked the climb down.

"It is totally ludicrous that the commission just withdraws this measure due to political pressure - it has been discussed for over a year and passed through all the correct legal procedures," said Pekka Pesonen , the general secretary of Copa-Cogeca.

"Perhaps it wasn't explained well enough. But it was necessary to ban refillable bottles and the traditional aceiteras found on restaurant tables. It is totally unacceptable that the Commission has done a complete U-turn and has succumbed to political pressure like this." 

You will notice a couple of things here - these producers "would have benefited from the ban by getting a higher price" and that the proposal has "been discussed for over a year". Moreover the ban, we're told is "necessary" - presumably for the owners of these industrial oil companies.

This is how the EU works. Organised lobbies corral officials and MEPs to browbeat them with proposals to protect their particular interests. We see this with the car industry and OEM parts, with industrial cheese manufacture in Italy and Greece using PDOs and PGIs, and with the pharmaceuticals business over herbal supplements (and more recently e-cigarettes).

All of this is wrapped up in warm words about 'health', 'safety' and 'protecting business' when, in reality, it is simply a ramp for the interests of the lobby. As a European consumer my interests are not served - and I am the poorer for this - by the failure of those who represent me (politicians, ministers and so forth) to do so. Now this is a feature of government everywhere - you only have to peek at the sugar industry in the USA to know that - but the EU has managed to achieve its perfection.

This olive oil ban is overturned (it will be lack, trust me) but ask yourself how many restrictions, bans, privileges and preferences have damaged our interests that haven't made the papers and haven't caused an outcry? The EU may have grown too large for us to take it round the back of the barn and finish it off with an axe but we have to option to leave.

We should take that option.


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