Speaking today on the launch of the European Farm-to-Fork Strategy, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Over the months of the COVID crisis, food retailers and wholesalers have proved their essential role in delivering daily essentials to 500 million Europeans. The crisis has also shown how important cooperation between all actors of the chain was in achieving this. May this cooperation across the supply chain continue in executing this ambitious Farm-to-Fork Strategy. Europe has the richest and most diverse agri-food sector in the world. All actors need to build on this, with the support of a vibrant single market to ensure that consumers have the choice of food they want, produced in a sustainable way.”
The retail and wholesale sector has for many years sought cooperation in the supply chain to create a more sustainable food system, so that consumers can find the right products in the shops, and farmers can benefit from selling sustainable, high quality produce. The Commission rightly identifies consumers, and their choices, as the starting point for the strategy. The current health crisis has accelerated the demand for healthy and sustainable food, and we expect this to continue in the future.
Commenting on the report issued today by the European Commission Joint Research Centre on retail alliances and their impact on the food supply chain, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The thorough and evidence-based JRC report helps clarify the reality of retail alliances and confirms that there is little evidence of an impact on farmers, and that existing regulation is sufficient. Retailers operate on low margins. Alliances allow them to slightly balance the stronger negotiating power of large suppliers to provide consumers the products they want at a reasonable price. The large multinational suppliers operate globally, achieve significant margins and have the power to set conditions in the supply chain. Most retailers are only present in a limited number of countries in Europe and join alliances to help create a reasonable basis of negotiation with these large manufacturers, and pass on the benefit to the consumer.”
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To mark Europe Day tomorrow, and the anniversary 70 years ago of the Schuman Declaration, Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce issues the following statement.
“Tomorrow, we celebrate Europe Day. Seventy years ago to the day, Robert Schuman launched his call for laying the foundations of what is today the European Union. Only five years after the final coming of peace, he published his declaration in an unbelievably bold drive for solidarity with France’s previous enemy over the ages. It is worth remembering his words: “L’Europe n’a pas été faite. Nous avons eu la guerre”.
Greener, Fairer and Simpler VAT and Excise duties - and zero VAT and customs duties for protective equipment during COVID-19 crisisRead more
Speaking today on the publication of the EuroCommerce paper on VAT and excise duties, EuroCommerce Director-General commented:
“Twenty-seven years after the Single Market was meant to have been completed, very different VAT rules in Member States remain some of the most significant barriers for companies to trade cross-border. We acknowledge the improvements which have been made, such as the VAT One-Stop-Shop and the abolition of the VAT threshold on imports from third countries, which we expect to see implemented thoroughly next January. But further progress is both possible and urgently needed in making VAT and excise duties work for the economy. We need to make taxation greener, fairer and simpler, and transform customs procedures to help lift Europe out of the economic recession after the COVID-19 crisis.”
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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Dear EU leaders,
In order to overcome the extraordinary challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brings, the European Union must show that it is more than the sum of its members. Pushed by the urgency at hand, Member States have rightfully taken the lead in recent weeks, but this unfortunately leads us to a scattered landscape of measures. Recovering from the crisis, only European solutions can work, putting the Single Market as the central instrument. More than ever we need a strong Europe, where its governments, businesses and citizens show their solidarity.
Examples of solidarity can be seen everywhere across our continent: from volunteers who sew masks at home for the bakery staff around the corner, to companies donating disinfectants and governments that organise joint procurement of medical devices. But the temptation to look inwards is strong. Here, European governments must be at the forefront, showing solidarity among each other, ensuring all Member States have market access to funds needed for their recovery, and also making sure their citizens understand the added value that our common European project brings in these unprecedented and difficult times.
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Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren called upon leaders across the world to drive the economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic by freeing up global trade:
“Before the virus became a global crisis, we saw a worrying spread of an equally pernicious development – the mistaken belief that economic growth can come from imposing tariffs and blocking imports. If we are to see the world economy start growing again after a downturn maybe as bad as in the 1930s, world leaders should get together now to agree on how to do so. Above all, they need to avoid the same mistakes made then of closing down international trade. Supply chains are complex and global, and these need to stay open if all of our economies are to recover quickly.”
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EuroCommerce is pleased that the Commission has sought to propose a number of ideas on how Europe can gradually return to normal once the immediate danger of the COVID-19 pandemic has eased. We recognise that the rate of infection differs from country to country and that decisions on the health of their citizens rests with national governments.
We support the Commission, however, in a number of important issues they raise in their welcome Communication issued today. These include:
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After several weeks of major restrictions on people’s movements, and, the closure, either as a direct result of government orders or indirectly due such restrictions, of millions of businesses selling non-food products, many of these face imminent bankruptcy and the prospect of never reopening. While governments have acted with a varying range of support measures, particularly in relation to short-term employment and temporary unemployment, many non-food businesses with no, or almost no, income are still facing monthly rent bills, and no prospect of being able to pay them.
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The EU Social Partners in the retail and wholesale sector are working together to ensure the continued safety of its workforce who are interacting daily with European consumers, while working to avoid the present COVID-19 pandemic putting at risk the 29 million jobs in the sector in Europe
The food supply chain is vital to the health and wellbeing of Europe’s citizens, and we wish to pay tribute to all employees in the sector, working hard and often long hours, to make sure that Europe’s consumers have what they need to live a normal life in extraordinary circumstances. Retail and wholesale staff have faced difficult working conditions and carried on providing a fundamental social service.
They also wish underline the difficulties and uncertainty facing workers unable to work in companies the non-food sector which have been forced to shut down due to the measures aimed at combating the virus, and which face the risk of imminent bankruptcy.
Employers and unions are working together on necessary safety measures, maintaining physical distance among customers and staff, providing hand sanitiser and safety infrastructure in their shops, ensuring staff are allowed time for frequent handwashing and appropriate periods of rest, and are being trained in hygiene techniques to protect themselves.
The social partners also call on retailers to provide staff with guidance and protection in cases of violence and verbal abuse against them from customers panic-buying, or upset at out-of-stock items and waiting to enter or leave stores. EuroCommerce and UNI-Europa have reminded all social partners of the guidance they have published on how to deal with such incidents.
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Brussels, 26 March 2020 – Copa-Cogeca, FoodDrinkEurope and EuroCommerce represent the core actors in the European food supply chain: farmers and agri-cooperatives, food and drink manufacturers, and wholesale and retail distribution.
In these challenging times, our farmers and businesses strive day and night to get food and drink to all Europeans every day. We are working together, also with many other businesses in the agri-food supply chain, and with the European institutions to ensure our collective response is coordinated and effective, both in the short and long-term.
We pay tribute to all of those across society who are working tirelessly to deal with the Covid-19 public health crisis. In the food supply chain, committed people on our farms, in our factories, on the roads, and in our shops and supermarkets are giving all their energy, time, and dedication to fulfil this important mission: feeding people.
We will do all in our power to ensure our food systems continue to function sustainably and effectively throughout the health crisis and the confinement measures taken.
We emphasise that our industries and workforce must be recognised as essential to maintain our activities and ensure safe, affordable and quality food for our consumers. We ask that the borders remain open for people and for freight to fulfill this essential mission.
We offer to work with the European institutions through a structured dialogue to ensure that the response to Covid-19 is coordinated and effective, both during the crisis and in its aftermath.
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Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General called for non-food retailers to be added to the EU list of hardest-hit sectors:
“We fully support national governments’ decisions to take urgent measures to protect all Europe’s citizens as far as possible from the spread of COVID-19. Rightly so, the focus hitherto has been to protect health and ensure access to food and other daily essentials. But we need to start looking at the economic fallout of the pandemic as well.”
In anticipating the economic consequences of the pandemic, the European Commission has produced helpful guidance and proposed measures – in their communication last week (COM (2020) 112) on the response to COVID-19 – to help the EU economy overcome the substantial disruption and damage. The communication was, however, written before a large number of member states imposed severe restrictions on the opening of shops selling non-food items, and therefore did not include it in those sectors it identified as being hard hit.
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The following statement was issued today on behalf of the European retail and wholesale sector by Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce:
First, I want to pay tribute to the 29 million people working in our sector, who have been working extra hours and giving up holidays to make sure that customers receive the service they need in these exceptional times. Retailers and wholesalers have been working with all parts of the supply chain to ensure that there are adequate supplies of the things European citizens need every day.
Second, coming into contact daily with millions of customers, we have taken a wide range of steps to support public authorities in seeking to minimise the risk of infection to customers and to our own staff. We are cooperating with and supporting all public authorities – at European, national and local level, in the measures they are taking to limit the spread of the virus. We are calling on our social partners to cooperate with us in protecting our employees.