A few weeks ago, I had the honour of visiting the EU Pavilion booth at Food&HotelAsia FHA-Food & Beverage. The popular EU Pavilion made a return to Singapore for FHA Food & Beverage 2022 when Asia’s largest food & drinks trade event gets underway at the Singapore Expo from 5 to 8 September 2022.
At the EU Pavilion booth, I had the pleasure of interviewing H.E. Iwona Piórko, the European Union Ambassador, where I learned more about her journey as an ambassador, her vision/goals, and how sustainability and traceability are important to the European economy.
1. Congratulations on being the second female ambassador for the European Union (EU), how do you feel about it? Would you be able to give us a brief overview of the European Union? And what it does?
H.E. Iwona Piórko: I am immensely proud to be an EU ambassador in Singapore, since it is a fascinating country where everything comes together, including politics, economics, social life, culture, and much more. I’ve been the ambassador for a year now and it has been a great honour to be part of one of over 140 fully-fledged diplomatic missions serving the EU across the world.
The European Union Delegation to Singapore opened on 30 June 2004. Over the past few years, it has promoted closer ties between the EU and Singapore as the EU’s diplomatic representation.
Xue Wei: Such an interesting journey you shared, it is exciting to hear your story too!
2. Considering agriculture is an important role in the European economy, I am interested in learning how sustainability helps agriculture – could you please share more about it?
A European Green Deal, which is the foundation of our whole growth in the economy, was put forward two years ago. This new comprehensive approach to how Europeans value food sustainability.
The link between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet puts sustainable food systems at the heart of the European Green Deal, the EU’s sustainable and inclusive growth strategy. It is designed to boost the economy, improve people’s health and quality of life, and care for nature. People are starting to pay increasing attention to environmental, health, social and ethical issues and they seek value in food more than ever before.
As part of the European Green Deal, we also have a whole policy in place – the Farm to Fork Strategy, where sustainability is looked at from every angle of the value chain. By 2050, the strategy aims to shift the current European food system towards a sustainable one in order to achieve climate neutrality.
As part of our efforts, we are reducing the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture, which contributes to soil, water, and air pollution. Additionally, we are using organic packaging and organic farming as it contributes to biodiversity and all actors in the food chain play a role in achieving food chain sustainability.
3. The European Union shared a quote about how European food is “More than Food, Great Stories to Share.” Could you elaborate more on this quote and if you have any great stories to share?
H.E. Iwona Piórko: The cultural heritage of Europe is a rich and diverse mosaic of creative expressions, a legacy from previous generations and a legacy for future generations.
Consumers are slowly turning toward European food because it is authentic, high quality, safe, and sustainable, all of which are characteristics consumers value. Regarding authenticity, it refers to Europeans producing cheese, wine, and many other things throughout the centuries. Like Singaporeans, we enjoy eating and sharing. We also believe that food brings people together.
The story I would like to share is about my grandmother and how she shared her young years, her life, and her food. I also reminisce about the food she makes and one of my favourite foods is a noodle soup dish we have for breakfast which brings lots of fond memories back to me.
Xue Wei: Thanks for sharing your extensive knowledge of European products and how they could stand out to the customers in Singapore. The European Union holds its products to such high standards so that they can live up to and even inspire the taste of consumers all over the world, and I love that our readers are able to learn more about them.
4. While we are on the topic of food, I’d like to know what makes European products so unique? In your opinion, what are some of the unique selling points that our local consumers can take note of?
H.E. Iwona Piórko: As much as the Singaporeans love to eat, they also love to learn about what they eat, where they come from, what their history is, and they are interested in European culture and we hope to share more about it with them. We have a wide variety of produce and food from different sources, climates, cultures and many more.
As far as quality and safety of food is concerned, we must ensure that consumers can trust the food, that it is of high quality, and that we are also community focused. We are also moving towards greening, which I realised our locals are very concerned about, and that is the sustainable use of farmland and how this benefits farmers financially.
Xue Wei: Yes, totally agreed – nowadays in Singapore consumers are so concerned about all these and they also care about animal welfare and farmer welfare, which is why the ‘greening’ (green direct payment) program supports farmers who adopt and maintain farming practices that contribute to the EU’s climate and environmental goals.
5. Any vision or goals for the EU in the near future too?
H.E. Iwona Piórko: Our first priority is the EU-Singapore digital partnership, as digitalisation has become so integral in so many areas, and we are currently in negotiations with the Singapore government, and we hope to see results by the end of this year. This will definitely be one of the important highlights for us and we are looking forward to that.
Xue Wei: Sounds like a great year is coming up! Thank you Iwona for your time, it was interesting to speak to you in person and find out more about the European Union.
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