Shame on you II
I received this eloquent letter from Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, the president of Federdoc, an umbrella group that unites all associations that protect Italian wines, which further illustrates and goes into depth what I wrote about a few weeks ago. No further comment is needed from me.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other but I always read your work, it’s always better to keep an eye on you journalists!
I read your ‘Shame on you’ editorial every closely and whould like to tell you the rest of this ‘shameful’ story, the part you still do not know and that will make you even more incensed. Nevertheless, I hope it serves to demonstrate that we must not give up, sooner or later we will get something to move and even if it is only a grain of sand, it will still be better than this deadlock.
In October 2012 I met with a dear friend who is involved in projects using European Union funding and he told me the same things you learned from Domenico Zonin. At the time the sums involved were far greater and the bottom line was that Federdoc could have and should have replaced the do-nothing State/regions and propose a national investment plan that could recover those resources before they were taken back and, above all, create a programming precedent for the 2014-2020 period that did not get lost in regional red tape.
After several exploratory meetings of Federdoc’s executive board, you can just imagine how incredulous and doubtful we were on our chances, towards the end of 2013 we began to invest tens of thousands of euros to organize meetings throughout Italy with hundreds of winemaking enterprises that were grouped together in producer associations. This led to an animated debate that came up with a number of proposals for projects that could immediately get off the ground (using funds from the 2007-2013 period) as well as those for the following six years. These consultations allowed us to reach a critical mass of urgent, strategic investments for which neither national nor local authorities had shown any interest in promoting, even if all these proposals fully qualified for the EU funds and were essential to ensure competition between producers and favor rural development, with special attention paid to quality wines for foreign markets. At the end we came up with a host of ready-to-go projects that would cost some 400 million euros with over 50% of the capital already available through private funding (co-financing and advance payments). Domenico Zonin was involved in all this in his role as president of the Unione Italiana Vini.
At this point we began knocking in the door of Enrico Letta, who had just become prime minister, illustrating to him what the problem was and giving him our Strategic Development Plan with a list of the projects that could start immediately. He agreed that not spending the available funds was a problem. I, together with my vice presidents, then met personally with the ministers for Regional Affairs, Graziano Del Rio; Territorial Union, Carlo Trigiglia; Economic Development, Fulvio Zanonato; and the undersecretary for the same ministry, Carlo Calenda. The only one who did not meet with us was Nunzia De Girolamo, the minister for agriculture.
The first reaction of everyone we met with was disbelief – how could we have fallen so low? What do the enterprises need? – which was followed by euphoria in discovering that a new and virtuous plan did exist. But then the bureaucracy began to raise its ugly head, the State-Regions Conference did not what us stepping in, since it was a clear indication of their failure, and then Letta’s government collapsed.
In the months since, we have been working in silence with the government of Matteo Renzi and something seems to be moving. And even if it is still too early to celebrate, it would be nice to think that the thousands offiles we complied and their relative projects will one day reach the desk of someone in charge who will say: ‘’This will work, let’s do it for the good of the nation and those enterprises that are still ready to invest, risk and create jobs’’. In the meantime the funds that had been available and were not spent were taken back (we had already been granted an extra year to use the funds, something the EU had never done) but at least we will have feasible programs ready for funding for the next six-year period (actually five since we were not in time to meet the deadline for 2014).
It will make you even more outraged to know that the funds that were not used and were lost were above all for projects in southern Italy and, even worse, would have allowed for investments not only in the wine sector but also for hospitals, schools, water resources and much more.
My best regards,
PS: We have been working in silence in order to not upset the feelings of regions and the bureaucracy in general, investing time and money to achieve something concrete, tangible and that can begin immediately. I sometimes wonder whether it might have been better to shout and scream, high a press agent and raise a hullaballoo like so many do today. But we, myself first of all, are head-headed winemakers and we are going to move that grain of sand.