EuroCommerce has adopted a forward-looking and pragmatic position on the Digital Services Act (DSA), calling upon the EU institutions to ensure that the DSA creates a safe and trustworthy digital environment for consumers. At the same time, the DSA needs to strike the right balance: ensuring products online are compliant and safe, while not unnecessarily overburdening businesses. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The European retail and wholesale sector is in the middle of a digital transformation which is fundamentally changing retail and wholesale business models, a trend significantly accelerated by the COVID19 pandemic. An increasing number are, or plan to become, platforms themselves, increasing competition between the different online business models. While policy makers are still talking about online and offline sales, the most successful businesses are seamlessly integrating the online and offline environment into omnichannel, matching consumers expectations and preferences.”
One of the main challenges our sector is facing is the lack of a level playing field with third country traders. They often offer non-compliant products to EU consumers, offered for very low prices, making it difficult for European retailers and wholesalers to compete with them.
EuroCommerce is pleased to announce the election at its General Assembly today of Juan Manuel Morales as its new President. Mr. Morales will take up his three-year mandate from 1 July 2021.
Mr. Morales commented upon his election:
“I will want to focus on guiding an important organisation representing the Europe’s largest private sector employer, a driver of growth for a wide range of other ecosystems, and a linchpin of local communities. We are under massive competitive and regulatory pressure in a low margin sector, which is often overlooked by policymakers. This is something we must, and will work to change. I am proud therefore, and deeply honoured, to have been elected to continue and take forward the valuable work undertaken by EuroCommerce members and staff, and, above all, by my excellent predecessor Régis Degelcke, to whom I extend my heartfelt thanks”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone in retail and wholesale, particularly in non-food. The very existence of thousands of SMEs, who represent 99% of our sector, is at risk. In addition, retail and wholesale face the dual challenge of the digital and green transformation, both of which require significant investment.”
In handing over the baton as President, Régis Degelcke added:
“I believe EuroCommerce has built up further its reputation as a strong organisation representing an essential ecosystem for the European economy and a provider of a vital service every day to the people who really matter – Europe’s 450 million consumers. It has worked hard to underline how our sector has faced the challenges of the last 18 months, and to get across important messages about its needs, both financial and policy. All of us are looking forward to working under Juan Manuel’s leadership, whose ambition for, and commitment to the industry will help EuroCommerce reach even greater heights.”
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For the last century, the transatlantic partnership has been the backbone of the global economy. Consumers and producers, workers and companies, citizens and their governments across the Atlantic and beyond have benefitted from the deep integrative forces that bind the United States and Europe together. By itself, the economic relationship creates 16 million jobs, generates half of total global consumption and accounts for one third of global GDP.
However, the previously undisputed leadership of the U.S. and Europe in the international system has become more precarious in recent times, as the tectonic plates of the geopolitical landscape shift. Furthermore, a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, an economic recession and a climate emergency have added to the challenges facing Transatlantic leadership.
In this context, the EU-U.S. Summit taking place on 15 June in Brussels is a critical milestone. Since the Biden Administration took office, we have seen an encouraging new momentum in the transatlantic relationship. The Summit represents an opportunity for these strategic partners to map out a positive, proactive agenda that builds on these encouraging early signs. By identifying substantive areas for cooperation, the EU and the U.S. can ensure that the transatlantic relationship continues to rhyme with prosperity, stability, welfare and leadership.
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At the latest of its series of Policy Talks today, EuroCommerce Director-General said:
“We are delighted that Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis has agreed to speak to us about a number of issues under his wide portfolio, including the EU’s approach to international trade following the Commission’s recent trade policy review, and how this can support Europe’s economic recovery and the EU industrial strategy. Our sector relies on complex, global supply chains to give consumers a wide choice of quality products at competitive prices. We are also directly dependent on, and can be a driver of economic growth and consumer confidence. With many retailers and wholesalers, and particularly SMEs hit hard by COVID crisis, we have a real interest in Europe rapidly getting back on its feet”.
In his speech and in responding to questions submitted by the audience, he will be covering, among other issues:
- How trade policy and the review of the Industrial Strategy fit together and the concept of Open Strategic Autonomy;
- The role of trade in driving growth and how it will contribute to EU recovery along with the EU recovery programme;
- The role of SMEs as drivers of innovation and growth in the EU economy and the EU SME strategy, including how SMEs benefit most from removal of trade barriers and regulatory burdens.
A link to the live event is available here.
EuroCommerce Narrative on Retail and Wholesale in a changing world…
The world is changing rapidly. Retailers and wholesalers have repeatedly shown how resilient and adaptive they are, and are moving ahead with embracing this change, providing value to customers, suppliers, and society at large. This great story is worth telling – both to the sector and to the wider world. And the story needs to say clearly what we want from the EU and from national governments to make our sector sustainably competitive.
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Commenting on the European Parliament’s adoption yesterday of the report by MEP Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE) on the Commission 2020 Competition Report, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented:
“The European Parliament has highlighted the increasing concentration in industry leading to higher profits at the expense of European consumers. We can add that, as the IMCO committee said, suppliers are hampering the development of the single market and its potential benefits to consumers by imposing territorial supply constraints on retailers. We call upon the Commission to act on this and strongly support the Commission, as it has done in investigating Mondelez and Coca-Cola, in enforcing competition rules, in protecting consumers and the single market”.
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World Food Safety Day aims at drawing attention and inspiring action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. To mark the third World Safety Day today, CELCAA, Copa-Cogeca, EuroCommerce, FEFAC and FoodDrinkEurope want to reiterate their strong commitment to delivering safe food to consumers in Europe as well as globally. Food is vital to all our lives, and safe food is the best guarantee of a healthy tomorrow for everyone.
There is no food security without food safety. Food safety is a responsibility carried by all partners in the food supply chain, from farm to fork, for the benefit of, particularly, consumers. Equally, safe feed is a prerequisite of safe food of animal origin, and an integral component of global food safety systems.
We are all working towards more sustainable food production and consumption, by for example reducing food waste and rolling out more sustainable packaging to support a more circular economy. But in pursuing these important objectives, all involved, whether public or private sector, must work to balance these various requirements to ensure that food safety is not compromised. For their part, agri-food chain partners remain fully committed, in an ever-changing society making new demands on business, to consistent, day-in-day-out efforts to keep food safe. This remains their number one priority.
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EuroCommerce is today holding its #WholesaleDay21 with a line-up of high-level speakers, including senior executives and entrepreneurs. They will be engaging with European Commission representatives and the audience on the contribution of wholesalers to the EU economy, the key challenges they face in a changing environment, how they address them and what support they need. Opening the event, EuroCommerce President Régis Degelcke said:
“The title of our event today tells its own story – lifting the veil which often hides from public view the vital role that wholesalers play in making our economy work. Today’s complex supply chains are like any machine we use every day – we don’t look at every component in the machine: we just expect it to work. It is the same with wholesalers. Because they work with a wide range of industrial and professional customers, we, the final customer, do not see what they do to make the supply chain work for us. From the speakers today, we will be hearing a lot more about what the immensely diverse wholesale sector does for almost all parts of Europe’s and the world’s economy, and how they are meeting the challenges of the digital and sustainability transition.”
Philippe Delpech CEO of Sonepar, the world’s no 1 wholesaler of electrical goods, summed up his vision in the keynote speech:
“Wholesale is a key industry that is undergoing a major digital transformation with an ever-increasing need for sustainable solutions. I am delighted to be speaking at this year’s Wholesale Day and sharing Sonepar’s ambitious transformation agenda to become the first global B-to-B electrical distributor to provide a fully digitalized and synchronised omnichannel experience to all customers. Through a dense network of 100 brands spanning 40 countries, Sonepar makes its customers’ lives easier, over the counter, visiting customers, by phone or online, – wherever and however we’re needed.”
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren today commented on the reported launch by the European Commission of an investigation into practices of the Coca-Cola company in a number of EU member states:
“We have for many years pointed to the problems our sector faces with the makers of ‘must-have’ products using their market power to impose unilateral conditions and limit competition to their advantage. Coming on top of other recent investigations into the practices of large multinational manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, we are pleased that the Commission has taken up this investigation, which we believe will shed further light on how large suppliers use their market power to the disadvantage of consumers and with no benefit to farmers”.
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With member states in the final stages of transposing the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented today:
“We believe strongly in cooperation across the chain as a means of creating the right conditions for the sustainability of farmers and the agri-food chain across Europe. We are very concerned at national governments over-implementing the UTP directive. This will simply increase consumer prices and undermine the single market, without creating any benefit to farmers. We are asking the Commission, when assessing national implementation measures, to look at how to preserve the spirit of the Directive - which was clearly to support smaller farmers and suppliers in dealing with a larger buyer.”
Retailers and wholesalers deliver an essential service, providing consumers with a wide choice of food products at competitive prices. They purchase most of what they sell from large manufacturers and other suppliers, and very little (less than 5%) directly from farmers. Retailers are investing in numerous initiatives to support farmers and SME suppliers (see how on our website: https://www.sustainable-commerce.com).
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Commenting on the publication today of the Commission communication on Business Taxation for the 21st Century, EuroCommerce Director General Christian Verschueren said:
“More than quarter of a century after the Single Market was meant to have been completed, businesses still have to confront different tax regimes across the EU. These act as a majorcost barrier to operating cross-border and making the single market a reality. The digital transformation of our ecosystem, and of the economy as a whole needs a tax system which matches it. That is why we want to see taxes being fair and fairly distributed, and also properly reflecting the international and digitalised market in which business operates. Hence we support EU tax policy being harmonised more internally and aligned internationally with the work of the OECD and G20 to produce a tax system which truly reflects these changes”
Fiscal policy is a key determinant of the business climate in which companies operate. Companies need a stable and predictable fiscal regime, and we will be looking to the legislative proposals foreseen in the communication ensure tax fairness, simplicity and enforceability of tax rules reflecting the reality of the market in the 21st century.
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Commenting today on the publication of the Commission’s updated Industrial Strategy, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We strongly support the new focus on essential ecosystems, including retail, in the updated Industrial Strategy. Retail and wholesale play a vital role in the European economy and the functioning of numerous other ecosystems. We need support in the digital and green transition to help drive the post-COVID recovery, and for wholesalers to be recognised as an important part of numerous ecosystems. The strategy also needs to be firmly linked to a competitive, single European market which serves consumers, as a basis for building resilience and competing internationally.”
The strategy represents an important framework for recovery in which we can be a central force. We provide employment to 29 million Europeans, (10 million in wholesale), and are an anchor for local communities. Private consumption makes up 50% of EU GDP, and our sector is closely connected to, and feeds numerous other ecosystems. More mapping of how ecosystems interact, and how the strategy can build on these links is needed,and in this analysis, for wholesalers to be recognised as playing an important role in the EU economy and the supply chain, connecting suppliers and business customers across numerous ecosystems.
Minimum wage initiative lacks legal basis: it must respect the autonomous role of social partners in wage-setting as well as statutory minimum wagesRead more
Brussels, 05 May 2021 - As representatives of sectoral employers, strongly engaged in social dialogue at national and EU level, we are committed to continuously improve the working conditions of our employees and share the objectives. We are however strongly concerned about the implications of the proposal for a Directive on adequate minimum wages on the role of Social Partners and on statutory minimum wages.
Indeed, as EU sectoral employers, we firmly believe in the autonomous role of our members in collective bargaining at national, sectoral and company level and support the right of Member States to set minimum wages according to national law and practice. Regrettably, the proposal does not respect these two core principles underpinning the European social market economy. For us, the EU has no competence to introduce any action regarding pay and collective bargaining as there is no legal basis to do so.
For these reasons, the sectors we represent are highly concerned about the proposed Directive. They fear in particular that top-down governmental intervention may crowd out better, closer-to-the-ground solutions, devised by social partners at national, sectoral and company level. The ability to set wages at the closest possible level to the workplace is crucial to adequately and timely respond to the rapid change taking place in our sectors.
As employers from different sectors that need dynamic and adaptable labour markets, we also challenge the European Commission assessment that there is a lack of social protection for certain forms of work, such as part-time work, fixed-term contracts and temporary agency work. Especially for these three forms of work, specific EU Directives are already in place, ensuring appropriate working conditions.
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Welcoming the long-awaited publication of the Commission communication on better regulation, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“It is some 6 years since Frans Timmermans launched the Commission’s new approach to better regulation, and we welcome Vice-President Šefčovič's updated communication on the subject. Getting regulation right can be instrumental in creating new business opportunities and properly functioning markets. Getting it wrong can turn good ideas into legislation which does not deliver what it intended and possibly harms the people it aimed to help. That is why we believe that scrupulous and full consideration of the impact of legislation, not least on SMEs, and proper consultation of those likely to be affected by it, is essential to making regulation work as intended, and contributing to a competitive European economy.”
The Commission communication is an important step forward in making sure that legislation works as it should in underpinning important European policy objectives – not least in helping create a resilient, competitive EU economy which protects consumers and allows industry, not least the retail and wholesale ecosystem, to innovate and meet the significant challenges of digital and sustainability transformation, and thus provide rewarding employment to Europe’s citizens.
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On today’s EU Trade Policy Day, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented :
“The COVID pandemic has hit the European and global economy hard. With some signs of Europe starting to see a slow return to normal life, the focus must now be on definitively beating the virus and building economic recovery. Some countries have reacted to the COVID crisis by erecting new barriers when all the experience shows that keeping trade open, whether within the EU single market or globally, is the best way to drive growth – and closing it down in a negative cycle of ‘beggar-my-neighbour’ is a guaranteed path to slowing recovery.”
The International Monetary Fund has recently shown that trade has already shown its ability to be an engine for economic recovery. Global trade volumes are expected to go up by 8.4% in 2021 and by further 6.5% in 2022. It is imperative that these encouraging figures will not be choked off by protectionist steps theoretically intended to support the economy but will serve the protection of a few sectors at the cost of the rest of the economy and consumers. Planned trade policy measures such as the carbon border adjustment mechanism or the anti-coercion instrument will need to be designed carefully to avoid acting as a brake on recovery and a trigger for protectionism more widely.
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Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides spoke today at the launch of the EuroCommerce #sustainablecommerce website, which illustrates the diversity and scale of initiatives adopted by retailers and wholesalers to support more sustainable consumption and healthier lifestyles and encourage sustainability across the food supply chain in line with the Farm-to-Fork strategy.
EuroCommerce Director-General, Christian Verschueren, underlined the commitment of the sector to these objectives:
“Retailers and wholesalers welcome and support the direction set in the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. The sector has been a pioneer, leading the way on a whole range of initiatives to operate more sustainably, and encouraging customers to adopt healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. Achieving the Farm-to-Fork objectives will need the whole supply chain to be working together. Our members have been working with their suppliers to ensure the products they sell allow consumers to live a healthier and more sustainable life.We see this as an important starting point in a longer-term process and have asked the Commission to help create a structure for dialogue among all players in the supply chain.”