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Minister Dejan Židan's response to the recommendation of the European Ombudsman regarding the European Commission’s conduct in the case of Teran

Ljubljana, 22 February 2017 — Today Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Dejan Židan responded to the recommendation of the European Ombudsman to the European Commission regarding the alleged request of Croatia to continue the labelling of wines bearing the name Teran after Croatia’s accession to the EU. "The recommendation established that the procedure is conducted in a non-transparent way; that Slovenia is not in the position in which it should have been in accordance with the EU rules on being an equal party; on the contrary, Slovenia is only seemingly an equal party, since it has no access to the documents."

According to Minister Dejan Židan, the recommendation shows that irregularities have occurred during the procedure to which Slovenia has long been drawing attention; this includes, inter alia, that the Commission has not disclosed the documents Croatia allegedly used to request permission to label its wine with the name Teran after Croatia’s accession to the EU. 

 

"With the Recommendation of the European Ombudsman a very significant shift has occurred; it was found, among other things, that the Commission’s reason for protecting a trade secret is groundless; it was also established that this is not a question of protecting the procedure, since the parties to the proceedings have the right to full information; further, the Recommendation also points out that a special additional concern is required regarding the delegated acts, since this is one of the Commission’s direct powers under the Treaty of Lisbon, and, for this reason, there is the additional need that all the documents be ascertainable to all parties, that the parties have the possibility to inspect the documents, and that the procedure is carried out in a transparent manner.”

 

According to the Minister, Slovenia immediately responded to the recommendation of the European Ombudsman. "A special letter and all the enclosures thereto were sent to Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timermans and, for information, to the responsible Commissioner, Phil Hogan." According to Minister Židan, the main point of the letter is a call to halt or suspend the procedure of adopting the delegated act.

 

News from press briefings, source: STA

 

Minister Židan: The delegated act procedure regarding Teran should at least be halted.

 

Ljubljana, 22 February — Following the European Ombudsman's recommendation, the documents related to Croatian request regarding the Teran labelling should be disclosed to the Slovenian producers of Teran, Slovenia requested in its letter sent to Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timermans on Monday. "Slovenia makes an appeal to halt or terminate the adoption of the delegated act," said the Minister of Agriculture Dejan Židan.

 

The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, issued a recommendation to the European Commission to fully disclose the documents related to Croatian request regarding Teran labelling to the Slovenian producers of Teran. The European Ombudsman is expecting to receive an answer from the Commission by 15 May. The Slovenian producers, united in the civil initiative for the protection of Teran, expect to gain access to the abovementioned documentation.

 

"This Recommendation shows that Slovenia’s arguments were correct. At the same time it also means an important development. The Ombudsman pointed out that the protection of trade secrets does not stand as a reason to withhold disclosure of the content of Croatia’s application. Also, this is not about the protection of the procedure itself, since Slovenia, as a party to the proceedings, has the right to inspect the full documentation,” explained Minister Židan in Ljubljana today.

 

At the same time, he again drew attention to the non-transparency of the procedure, which, in the case of delegated acts, the Commission should not afford itself. Minister Židan emphasises the fact that the issued recommendation gives a new dimension to the story of Teran. It would also bear special significance in a potential action that Slovenia brings against the European Commission.

 

For this reason, on Monday, Slovenia sent a special letter to Frans Timermans, asking him to halt or stay the process of adopting the delegated act. “The procedure should at least be stopped, for Slovenia to obtain the possibility to inspect the Croatian documents,” believes Minister Židan.

 

This topic will also be discussed at a special event in Brussels next week.  On 28 February, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan will meet with the Slovenian producers of Teran. According to the sources, the meeting will provide another opportunity for Commissioner Hogan to clarify the background of the Commission's decision regarding the issue of the name Teran. The meeting will take place at the initiative of the Slovenian producers of Teran wine.

 

In July 2015, the producers of Teran wine already complained to the European Ombudsman about its failure to disclose the content of the documents with which Croatia requested an exception for the labelling of wine as Teran, and last Wednesday they received the Ombudsman's reply.

As summarised in the civil initiative aimed at building respect for the protection of Teran wine, the Ombudsman established, among other things, that the Commission in its decision not to disclose them, unjustifiably invoked the exceptions relating to the protection of business interests and protection of decision-making process, because the documents mentioned above contain no commercially sensitive information.

 

The Ombudsman also rejected as unfounded the Commission’s reliance on the exception regarding the protection of the decision-making process about the delegated act and emphasised the Commission's obligation to ensure the broadest possible access to documents when acting on the basis of delegated powers.

 

In the light of the above, the Ombudsman concluded that the Commission, by refusing full access to the requested documents, committed an irregularity and for this reason, by 15 May, the Ombudsman awaits the Commission’s response to her recommendation in the form of a detailed opinion, which may include the adoption of a recommendation and method for its implementation.    

 

Today, Minister Židan also responded to the allegations made by certain media, namely that Slovenia has failed to protect Teran on the list of the International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV) in Paris.  Since Teran is a protected designation of origin for wine and not a wine grape variety, Slovenia has not sent this name to the list of wine grape varieties. The list is also missing the name Champagne, which is a protected designation of origin for wine from France and is not a wine grape variety.

 

However, Slovenia has submitted its protected designations for wines to the abovementioned organisation and they are on the list of protected Geographical indications (GIs) — including Teran.