Commissioner Reynders has issued the Commission’s second Rule of Law report. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren underlined the importance to Europe’s economy of EU rules and values being observed in all member states:
“All societies rely on the law being applied equally and fairly, and business can only function properly within a predictable and effective legal framework. In removing this cornerstone on which the single market and Europe’s institutions are built, countries are undermining the very basis of the EU. They also – short-sightedly - hamper the ability of businesses such as retail and wholesale to invest, create jobs and operate to serve consumers. This is why we strongly support Commissioner Reynders in ensuring that Europe and its citizens can expect all counties to respect the rules-based system which the EU has established, and call upon the Commission to take the action urgently needed to enforce those rules.”
Our sector has felt directly the harmful effects of lack of respect of the rule of law, particularly, but not exclusively, in Central and Eastern Europe. Retailers and wholesalers in these countries face arbitrary administrative and legislative action, often by decree sidestepping normal parliamentary procedures, with no proper access to national decision-makers and often judicial systems unable to function efficiently and independently to provide proper redress.
Retailers and wholesalers across Europe are already working hard to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Our sector has been active for many years in seeking to reduce its impact on the environment, promoting sustainability in its supply chain, its own operations, and with customers. We therefore support the Commission’s Fit for 55 package as a concrete set of measures to meet the Green Deal target of a 55% reduction in EU emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030. We share, however, other sectors’ concerns that the carbon border adjustment mechanism should be designed to be compatible with WTO rules and avoid new areas of dispute with trading partners.”
Retailers and wholesalers have shown that they take sustainability and climate change seriously, setting clear and measurable targets to reduce the impact of their operations and the products they sell. Our companies have also been proactive in setting clear targets for becoming carbon neutral, and in the transition to sustainable transport and increased energy efficiency. They are installing new refrigeration equipment, charging stations in their supermarket car parks, and using more renewable energy. They are continuously improving the environmental performance and driving eco-design of their products.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren, Independent Retail Europe Director-General Else Groen and Euro Coop Secretary-General Todor Ivanov announced today that they had signed the EU Code of Conduct under the Farm to Fork Strategy, and issued the following joint statement:
“We are happy to have signed today an EU Code of Conduct which covers objectives our sector has long committed to and is actively pursuing. Our signatures and the commitments of our member associations and companies reflect our support of the transition to sustainable food systems, recognising and building on the many initiatives our sector already has in place. It also signals our commitment under this code to further engagement and continued dialogue with other actors in the supply chain.
Such dialogue will be important in contributing to the code’s objectives – no one part of the supply chain can do so alone, and we supported the Commission’s inclusive approach in involving all interested stakeholders across the supply chain. We all want to see consumers benefit from more access to sustainably-produced food and make the healthy choice. We will promote the code and share good practice, and we call upon the Commission to facilitate the dialogue foreseen in the code.
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Speaking on the launch today of proposed revision of the General Product Safety Directive, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We wholeheartedly support updating the Product Safety Directive. This is long overdue: since it was first adopted 20 years ago, the market has changed dramatically, in particular due to digitalisation. This has further been accelerated by COVID, and we need rules which can address the many new ways in which products are bought and sold. The influx of products bought online from traders outside the EU which do not meet EU standards is one of these changes which needs effective action”.
Consumer demand is driving innovation in retail, and our sector is responding with a diverse range of digital and omnichannel options to suit individual consumers’ needs and expectations. We need EU policy and regulation to reflect these trends, and retailers need a coherent framework that:
• ensures a high level of consumer trust that the products they buy are safe;
• balances responsibilities for all market players depending on their place in the supply chain, while ensuring their proportionality;
• provides for harmonised and clear risk assessment rules for effective enforcement and recall of dangerous products;
• creates a level playing field for all businesses selling to EU consumers - whether they are established in the EU or outside;
• uses to the full the possibilities of digital technology in alerting the public to risks;
• works hand in hand, and does not overlap with the rules on platform liability under the Digital Services Act.
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.
Commissioner McGuinness talks to retailers and wholesalers on financial services, investment and recoveryRead more
European Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness is speaking today in the latest of EuroCommerce’s series of Policy Talks on “Finance and Regulation – Driving recovery and investment.
In the talk, Commissioner McGuinness will be covering a range of subjects, including how green finance can drive a sustainable recovery in Europe, proposals on how this is defined, and companies can work to reinforce their efforts to encourage sustainability and basic rights in their supply chains in third countries.
She will also explain Commission thinking on ensuring that EU investors have access to protection across the EU, and share her thoughts on some of the issues surrounding card payments, including the introduction of strong customer authentication. She will also be answering a wide range of questions submitted by the audience.
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We, the coalition of European business associations representing different European sectors call for the swift ratification of the EU-Mercosur association agreement. With the political agreement reached already 2 years ago (June 2019), now is the time to move forward and unlock the manifold mutual benefits that this agreement will deliver.
The EU-Mercosur agreement:
is the largest and most ambitious trade agreement ever negotiated by both sides, provides regulatory certainty for both trade in goods and services, and establishes better trade links between countries of respectively 440 and 260 million citizens. The agreement will unlock growth and help both regions to recover from the current economic and public health crisis, invest in the green transition and diversify global supply chains and our core market base.
- includes the most advanced sustainable development provisions that will foster partnership, help mitigate climate change and bind both sides to effectively implement the Paris Agreement. Unilateral legislative initiatives at EU level, such as upcoming initiative on deforestation and the review of existing rules on timber trade and fight against illegal logging will enhance this cooperation and effectively ensure that exports to the EU will not contribute to deforestation or soil degradation.
- includes enforceable commitments on workers' rights and environmental protection through a dedicated dispute settlement mechanism that includes an active role for civil society organisations and calls on the expertise of international bodies, whose reports and recommendations must be made public. In case of non- respect of any of these provisions an automatic mechanism will trigger formal government consultations.
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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.
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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.
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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).