The 1st of January 2023 will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the European Single Market. One of the EU’s greatest achievements, the Internal Market is the key driver of EU economic integration. This has been essential to the growth of the European economy and remains crucial to Europe’s global competitiveness. It has brought about greater economies of scale while improving the allocation of resources and enabling the EU to set high harmonised safety standards for consumers and environmental protection.
Today, Europe faces new challenges and has new priorities. Chief amongst these is the European Green Deal and the need for a transition towards a circular and climate neutral economy. The packaging industry, the consumer goods industry and downstream operators understand this imperative and are fully committed to resource-efficient circularity goals. However, fragmentation of the Single Market due to countries taking divergent measures is undermining this commitment and hampering EU industry’s aspiration to lead the transformation towards a more sustainable economy. In light of this, the undersigned associations call on the EU to create one single circular economy not 27 separate ones, underpinned by an integrated Single Market.
The European Commission has today adopted new rules on the assessment of vertical agreements in distribution which will come into force from 1 June 2022. These rules provide a safe harbour from anti-trust rules for agreements between sup and their customers, for example, for the sale, purchase or resale of products.
Christel Delberghe, Director General of EuroCommerce, which represents the retail and wholesale sector in Europe, commented:
“The European Commission has taken an important step by adapting the vertical block exemption rules to a digital environment. We welcome the Commission’s efforts to change the framework, but we are concerned that for SMEs the complexity will mean they remain reluctant to explore or pursue online sales. We, therefore, remain cautious about the degree to which the new rules leave room for interpretation and how they will be used in practice in a market where brands hold a very strong position.”
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We, a coalition of trade associations from both sides of the Atlantic, representing businesses of all sizes and active in a variety of sectors, strongly support efforts to strengthen the transatlantic partnership.
We are experiencing a defining moment in international relations, with the changing geopolitical and geoeconomic landscape likely to create significant long-term ramifications for both the EU and the US.
In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that the transatlantic partnership remains the strongest, most trustworthy and durable partnership in the world. It is irreplaceable, and it has deployed a robust and credible reaction to recent events. The US and EU have jointly committed to Europe's energy security and sustainability and to accelerating the global transition to clean energy. And the transatlantic tech sector and public authorities have responded quickly and effectively to disinformation and cybersecurity threats.
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The European Parliament has adopted today its report on competition policy. The report highlights the key role competition policy plays in a properly functioning Single Market, which is of particular importance to European consumers and the economy in view of the damage from the COVID pandemic, the current inflationary crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Christel Delberghe Director General of EuroCommerce, which represents the retail and wholesale sector in Europe, commented:
”I am pleased to see the Parliament call for a stop to practices fragmenting the Single Market, such as territorial supply constraints and abuse of selective distribution systems. Tackling them and other abuses that can potentially lead to higher prices and less choice for consumers is particularly important at a time when consumers are struggling with a spiralling cost of living. Practices that restrict the freedom of retailers to source products in the single market such as territorial supply constraints, come at a cost estimated by the European Commission, to consumers of €14bn each year.”
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.
Retail and wholesale fully committed to sustainable food – but need flexibility for finding best solutionsRead more
EuroCommerce Director General Christel Delberghe today welcomed the launch of a public consultation on the EU framework for sustainable food systems. She commented:
“The retail and wholesale sector is fully committed to working with other stakeholders in the supply chain to build sustainable food systems in Europe. We have taken a proactive role in the Farm-to-Fork Code of Conduct and our dedicated website shows the many initiatives by our members to encourage healthy and sustainable food choices. Our main ask of the Commission is to ensure that any regulation emerging from this exercise allows flexibility for innovative ideas with well-defined sustainability criteria.”
Retail and wholesale have responded to consumer demand for more sustainable and healthy food options. EuroCommerce’s latest report with McKinsey on the grocery retail market shows continued consumer interest in buying more of these products. But it also highlights a growing polarisation of the ability to buy sustainable and healthy foods between better-off and less affluent households, widened further by present inflationary pressures on the cost of living. EuroCommerce will therefore be asking the Commission to:
• Propose rules which work with the grain of existing multiple voluntary sector initiatives and add value to these.
• Ensure a strong single market and an enabling policy environment which supports companies in their ability to do business and differentiate themselves from their competitors, as a basic condition for an innovative market.
• Be coherent with existing EU legislation and approaches such as in the General Food Law, in defining responsibility and reporting requirements and ensure that responsibility falls on the operators best placed to fulfil those obligations.
• To keep food safety and a science-based approach at the heart of the sustainable food system and ensure that rules and definitions covering sustainability and any claims related to it are clear and easily applicable by operators, as well as understood by consumers. Any rules on sustainability labelling should be applied voluntarily.
• Involve retail and wholesale and the rest of the supply chain when drawing up rules to ensure that they are practicable and can therefore achieve their objectives.