On May 30, during the opening day of the 11th World Potato Congress in Dublin, Ireland, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Janusz Wojciechowski, addressed the Congress participants. We publish an excerpt of his address below – the full address can be found in a news release issued by the European Commission.
My fellow speakers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you today for the World Potato Congress in Dublin.
In coming to Ireland, I am following in the footsteps of another Polish man, Pawel Strzelecki.
Strzelecki was a scientist and humanitarian who came to Ireland in 1847, at the height of the great potato famine.
He came to provide practical solutions. On his arrival, he wrote that: “You cannot reason in an abstract way, when you see men dying in the streets”.
Today, we come to Ireland in more positive conditions, but we are here to find solutions for issues of similar gravity.
Given your history, Ireland is an ideal place for our discussion.
I know the deep connection you have with the potato as a source of staple food. It is a connection shared with my homeland, and shared with me personally.
I grew up on a 10-hectare farm in Poland; and 2 hectares were always set aside for potatoes.
We were a small farming family, and these potatoes provided our daily meals.
Today, in Ukraine, it is families like this who are caught in the crossfire of war.
The United Nations, with the support of the European Union, has sent over 860 tonnes of seed potatoes to more than 17,000 families in Ukraine.
This support is vital. Because the small farmers and families of Ukraine are not just the victims of this war; they are also the heroes, and we must defend them in every way possible.
Russia intends to use food as a weapon of war. Together, with Ukraine, we shall use food for the defence of peace.
This basic connection – between food, peace, and democracy – is a founding principle of the European Union.
As we move forward, this principle must continue to guide us.
The current crisis has made it absolutely clear: food security must be a fundamental priority of the European Green Deal.
For this, the Green Deal must be a good deal for farmers. Because a good deal for farmers is a good deal for society.
The foundations of our society are rooted in food security. And the foundations of food security rest on the work of our farmers and the health of our environment – our climate, natural resources, and biodiversity.
To support the foundations of our society, we must therefore support both the environmental requirements and economic realities of food production.
In the European Commission, this is the approach we intend to take.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the face of conflict and crisis, we must call on a spirit of co-operation and solidarity.
Let me recall the story of Pawel Strzelecki.
After arriving in Ireland, he devised a system of feeding children directly through schools.
By distributing daily food rations in this way, it is estimated that Pawel Strzelecki’s system saved the lives of approximately 200,000 children.
In Ireland, you say that “We live in each other’s shadows”.
I take this to mean that, in the challenges presented by life, we share both our sorrows, and our shelter.
The story of Pawel Strzelecki is just one small example of what can be achieved through solidarity.
If we take this spirit, we can achieve much – for the people of Ukraine, for our most vulnerable populations, and for the future of our food and farming systems.