Thursday

26th May 2022

Opinion

Why EU needs 'product of origin' protection for handcrafts

  • Murano glass-making, in Venice. 'We need to recognise the role they played and still play in raising our industrial profile across the world and in making Europe a synonym of quality'
Listen to article

Every time I happen to talk about the fascinating story of Murano glass and Burano lace, I feel a profound and intense sense of pride.

The secrets of Murano were jealously guarded on the island by Venetian glassmakers for centuries. Burano lacemaking is closely linked to fishing, as it originates in the manufacturing and repair of fishing nets, and Murano glass chandeliers no longer need introducing.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Burano lace. The European Union should not ignore or take for granted these artisanal traditions

Murano glass and Burano lace are deeply rooted in the tradition of my city.

Murano and Burano artisans are not only emblems of centuries-old craft traditions defining the identity of the Serenissima: they are both European cultural legacies that made our continent a cradle of outstanding craft production admired and envied around the world.

Europe's craftmanship is a vast and diverse inheritance that lies in our cities, provinces, and regions. Our local traditional productions are part of a larger treasure that I like referring to as the EU's family jewels.

As you know, the value of family jewels is not determined by their market value; they are handed down from one generation to the next because they belong to the same family, and in doing so they end up becoming priceless objects, which no sensible descendant would ever sell or throw away.

The European Union is our family, and we have inherited some wonderful showpieces.

For example, we have Fermo shoes, Como silk, Bohemian crystal, Limoges porcelain, Toledo steel, Donegal tweed, Solingen cutlery, and the list goes on and on. These products and the local artisans who craft them are an essential part of European history and identity. We need to recognise the role they played and still play in raising our industrial profile across the world and in making Europe a synonym of quality.

Artisan traditions

The European Union should not ignore or take for granted these artisanal traditions. They are exceptional local manufacturing histories that, all together, tell the magnificent story of a continent that has an unrivalled industrial legacy, which is unique, rich, and extraordinary.

Many of these local traditional crafts are at risk of disappearing, sacrificed to the logic of free competition with countries and markets that do not abide by the same rules. The EU should ensure that our craft heritage is protected and easily-identifiable internationally.

The manufacturers of our cities and regions made the Europe we know and belong to, and it is only fair to acknowledge and finally recognise their role in shaping our cultural and industrial identity.

The city of Venice, together with AFIGIA (the French association of industrial and artisanal geographical indications), and many European regions and municipalities, is currently engaging with the European Commission to make the case for an adequate legal protection for Europe's handicraft and industrial products.

We are the first alliance of manufacturers of European products of origins, and although we have different languages, we speak with one single voice across the EU. Our coalition is called Craft Europe – Local provenance, European Legacy, and we would like to invite other European cities and regions to get in touch and join our initiative.

Our strong and inalterable conviction is that the creation of a single protection system for non-agricultural products based on a sui generis intellectual property right at EU level is a measure that would ensure the preservation of local traditional industries without affecting the EU internal market.

This mechanism would produce an optimal alignment with the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement, and would also produce a wide range of self-reinforcing benefits across our continent.

First of all, a mechanism protecting non-agricultural geographical indicators would not only preserve the work of local traditional manufacturers and defend consumers against counterfeiting, but also boost Europe's industrial relaunch post-Covid.

The growth generated would be homogeneous and create more economic and geographical balance.

The preservation and recognition of the products of origin would also back rural economies, where these goods are produced, and would make our countryside more attractive to young people who are currently forced to leave their hometowns to find a job in bigger cities.

Europeans should not be forced out of their own region by economic hardship and should have the right to perpetuate centuries-old traditions that defined the identity of their community.

A PGI system would help to revitalise small and medium-sized cities; repopulating areas at risk of desertification; decreasing the population density of our metropolises, to make them more affordable and greener; and even significantly reduce the carbon footprint of European consumers, to facilitate the EU's efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Together, we responded to the consultation launched by the European Commission on this topic. We are now working on a Manifesto, due to be published soon, with our analysis and proposals.

Our voice is loud and clear, but it must become stronger. The city of Venice and its partners would like to invite all regions, provinces, citizens, and industrial and handicraft associations to join us in this initiative and show to the EU institutions that we are the beating heart of Europe's industry, everywhere from Portugal to Bulgaria, from Italy to Sweden.

These traditions and skills inherited from our ancestors will be the legacy that we will pass on to future generations of EU citizens.

Author bio

Sebastiano Costalonga is municipal councilor for commerce and manufacturing and industrial activities of the City of Venice.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Only Greeks can make 'feta', EU court says

In the latest round of controversy over food origin names, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that 'feta' cheese is geographically specific to Greece, forbidding cheese producers in other countries from using the name.

Court battle looms over name of Champagne

40 people from the Swiss village of Champagne where they have been making white wine for centuries have gone to the European Court of Justice, (ECJ) to take out a clause from the Swiss-EU treaty that would stop them using the traditional name on the labels. The clause was put in at the behest of the French champagne manufacturers. The fight has been likened to that of Asterix against the mighty Roman empire.

Feature

Death in Venice? Italy's tourism on life-support

"This is the worst crisis Italy has had to face since the end of the Second World War" says Emanuele Felice, professor of economic history at the University of Chieti-Pescara, and economic advisor to Italy's Democratic Party.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us