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13. 10. 2017 21:19

Prime Minister Sobotka at the Consumer Summit: We need a European dual quality food solution

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka made a speech in the beginning of a Consumer Summit in Bratislava, 13 October 2017.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka made a speech in the beginning of a Consumer Summit in Bratislava, 13 October 2017.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had a presentation on Friday, 13 October 2017, at the beginning of the Consumer Summit in Bratislava, named "For the same quality of products for all". A meeting on the theme of food quality in European countries is held under the auspices of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. He is attended by Belava Szydlová, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, by Prime Minister of Hungary,Viktor Orbán, the representatives of the European Commission and the representatives of consumers and manufacturers.

Speech by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka at the Consumer Summit in Bratislava:

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a good day.

I am very happy that today, together with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, I can co-organize a meeting which deals with a very important topic – the dual quality of food.

This question has been wrongly overlooked for a long time, and in some cases even the very existence of this phenomenon within the European Union has been denied.

At national level, we have carried out a number of analyses and our supervisory authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture have repeatedly carried out comparative tests in cooperation with reputable workplaces. Their results have unequivocally demonstrated how critical the problem is. The results have also shown that this is not a random phenomenon but rather a widespread practice.

That is why I am glad that in recent months we have moved from the question of whether dual quality exists to the question of how to deal with it or how to eradicate it. Equally, I also find it good that we have come to the conclusion that the matter cannot be resolved by the Member States alone, that we need a European solution, and that we also need the European Commission's activity.

In this respect, I appreciate the speech by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the state of the Union. I think he named the problem in this speech very precisely: it is not just about the dual quality of food. The point is that such a practice makes some Europeans second class. As a result, the image of the EU in our countries is corrupted. That is why I am pleased that the theme has been included in the debate on the future direction of the European Union. At the summits in Bratislava, at the meeting in Rome, we agreed that we need to restore the trust of citizens in the EU. The ability of the European Union to deal with people's everyday problems and the solution of dual quality food is a very concrete example of where the EU can show very effectively its added value.

For the Czech Republic and its consumers, this topic is really the number one priority. In the long term, we are striving to find an effective and long-term solution at European level. Our studies and analyses show that it must be a legislative solution. According to some signals, the problem is far from just food, it also affects other sectors. That is why we need a strong legislative solution that will enable us to cope better with these practices in the EU single market.

The key, according to the Czech Republic, lies in the revision of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. Its current form, in our opinion, does not allow sufficient sanctioning of unfair behaviour. It is necessary to proceed with its amendment.

The first step in this direction, which I very much welcome, is the new methodology of the European Commission. It should allow us to compare the food quality better and compliance with consumer protection across the EU. This will help us explore the background of this fraudulent behaviour.

Part of the responsibility will, of course, continue to lie with the authorities of the Member States, where we do not yet fully exploit all the options. I therefore want the Czech Ministry of Agriculture to continue to carry out in-depth investigations that highlight the specific and often glaring deception of consumers in the EU single market.

We also want to cooperate intensively with the authorities of other Member States. A useful platform to deepen this cooperation can be also today's Consumer Summit in Bratislava, whose organizing the Czech Republic really welcomes.

Together with these activities, product quality tests and comparative testing of non-food products are carried out by a number of non-governmental institutions, particularly by consumer organisations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to appreciate the efforts made by the leading Czech officials in the EU institutions, such as Olga Sehnalová, the Member of the European Parliament present here, or the Commissioner for Justice, Consumer Protection and Gender Equality present here, Věra Jourová, with whom the Czech Government very intensively cooperates. And I want to remind you that in the Czech Republic, it was the Member of the European Parliament, Olga Sehnalová, who opened the topic of dual quality food very vigorously a few years ago.

I also want to appreciate the strong cooperation with the countries of Visegrád Four in this matter. Especially on the platform of our ministers of agriculture.

I am very glad that at this summit, the European Commission representative will present his combat plan with dual quality. I look forward to the fact that this action will soon end this unjust situation.

The dual product quality theme has also a wider context and cause. This is, in my view, an incomplete, or perhaps too slow, convergence between EU Member States. It is our aim and also the common task to bring the economic and social conditions in each of the EU countries closer together so that such practices become the past for good.

We also need EU solutions in this area. It is not just for the Member States to ensure convergence. That is why I expect the European Commission to reflect the subject of economic and social convergence in this context and to come up with other measures that will lead to the convergence of the economic and social levels across the EU.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to assure you that the Government of the Czech Republic will continue to support greatly all activities that will lead to the solution of the dual quality of food and, more broadly, to ensuring economic and social convergence.

I look forward to the discussion which, in my view, should focus, in particular on the practical aspects of this issue, not only in terms of the European dimension. We should also focus on how we can be active at home in our Member States or in bilateral cooperation with our immediate neighbours.

We should look at what tools our national audit bodies have, how they use them and whether it is necessary to change something in this area (e.g. legislation) so that we have the strength to fight the phenomenon of dual quality.

These are all just some of the challenges lying ahead of us. I look forward to working together to keep the Union as a whole in these trials, to remain coherent, to remain operational, and to acknowledge our role as a guarantor not only for security but also for the quality of goods in Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and I look forward to the follow-up discussion.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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