`International Olive Council Activities in Limbo

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Olive Council Activities in Limbo

Feb. 21, 2013
Julie Butler

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Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Jean-Louis Bar­jol

Fall­out from the Arab Spring is among fac­tors in the cur­rent paral­y­sis of Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil activ­i­ties and non-admin­is­tra­tive spend­ing.

The IOC found itself in the dif­fi­cult” and extra­or­di­nary” sit­u­a­tion of being unable to spend more on admin­is­tra­tion in a month than the monthly aver­age of its admin­is­tra­tive bud­get last year, accord­ing to its exec­u­tive direc­tor Jean-Louis Bar­jol. And it can’t do any­thing that would gen­er­ate other costs — includ­ing trav­el­ing to Penang to rep­re­sent the sec­tor at the impor­tant Codex Com­mit­tee on Fats and Oils meet­ing start­ing on Mon­day.

Even if it did attend that meet­ing, it would be with­out an offi­cial stance because its Coun­cil of Mem­bers has yet to approve var­i­ous reports pre­pared by IOC com­mit­tees, includ­ing on other pend­ing mat­ters such as pos­si­ble changes to chem­i­cal para­me­ters for olive oil tests.

The 100th ses­sion of the Coun­cil was due to vote on many rec­om­men­da­tions — and on the IOC bud­get for 2013 — at what should have been its clos­ing sit­ting last Novem­ber 19 – 23 in Madrid. How­ever, on the day vot­ing was due to occur, quo­rum was lost, Bar­jol said.

He would not say why nor com­ment on a report in Olimerca mag­a­zine that the mem­bers from Turkey and Israel had walked out in dis­pute over a pro­posed new IOC staffing agree­ment.

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Mean­while, hold­ing another meet­ing is not prov­ing easy. The power to con­vene a Coun­cil meet­ing is held by the IOC pres­i­dent, a role that rotates alpha­bet­i­cally through mem­ber coun­tries from one Novem­ber to the next.

It was Syria’s turn from Novem­ber 2011 but the coun­try — where an esti­mated 70,000 have died in the con­flict fol­low­ing peace­ful anti-gov­ern­ment protests in March 2011 — has yet to pay its IOC con­tri­bu­tion for 2012.

The role thus passed to the vice-pres­i­dency coun­try, Tunisia, also in cri­sis, and specif­i­cally to for­mer IOC exec­u­tive direc­tor Habib Essid. In March 2011, Essid was appointed Min­is­ter of the Inte­rior in the interim gov­ern­ment of Tunisia after the Arab Spring upris­ing there a few months ear­lier saw the over­throw of the Ben Ali gov­ern­ment, under which he had also served.

Bar­jol said Essid had seen fit to can­cel a clos­ing sit­ting of the Council’s ses­sion pro­posed for next Mon­day and Tues­day, and had yet to set another date.

There is no IOC deputy vice-pres­i­dent and Tunisia is due to rotate into the pres­i­dency for the 101st Coun­cil ses­sion, with Turkey as vice-pres­i­dent.

IOC in limbo over work to increase ship­ping trans­parency, admit Uruguay

Bar­jol, speak­ing to Olive Oil Times in Span­ish, said the sit­u­a­tion was a lit­tle strange” and had par­a­lyzed the IOC in terms of activ­i­ties.”

Among IOC projects affected are its work with the World Cus­toms Orga­ni­za­tion to har­mo­nize tar­iff codes, which cur­rently cover only three cat­e­gories: vir­gin, non-vir­gin and olive pomace oil, and don’t dis­tin­guish between vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil, or lam­pante oil.

Bar­jol said the IOC wanted more trans­parency in the codes and as a first step sought recog­ni­tion of lam­pante oil in amended tar­iff codes due to apply from 2017. If agree­ment is not achieved by this year, that oppor­tu­nity will be missed and another won’t come until 2022, he said.

Also stalled is approval of Uruguay’s appli­ca­tion to join the IOC and deter­mi­na­tion of the finan­cial con­tri­bu­tion it should make.

A Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Agri­cul­ture spokesper­son said that under its estab­lished rules, the IOC had to func­tion with pro­vi­sional twelfths” until its Coun­cil of Mem­bers adopted the 2013 bud­gets. This means it has avail­able each month an amount equal to one twelfth of its admin­is­tra­tive bud­get for last year.

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