Commenting on the launch today of the Commission Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retail and wholesale are a people business, serving people. We provide stable and fulfilling jobs for 29 million Europeans; that is 1 in 7 jobs. We value immensely the work of all our colleagues who have worked during the COVID pandemic serving our customers, keeping the shelves stocked with the daily essentials consumers need, and adapting to a massive shift to online sales. Yet, we do not take that dedication for granted. We reward people and ensure that they can work safely. In most countries, the employment conditions in our sector are subject to collective agreements, and this has worked well. Active social partnership is a tried formula for managing and building consensus around changes in business and in the jobs people do. We therefore naturally support Commission efforts to promote social dialogue and socioeconomic convergence. But this should go with the grain of what is already in place nationally and be within the boundaries of the EU treaties.”
And while food retailers have been working hard to keep the food supply chain running smoothly, companies and employees in the non-grocery sector have faced restrictions, along with business uncertainty and job insecurity, for almost a year. We are seeking help in EU and national recovery plans to help investment in resilience for all our sector, and in equipping our companies and employees to play a key role in the digital and sustainability transition.
Reacting to the multinational brand lobby group AIM’s call for an EU market investigation of retail alliances, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren and Independent Retail Europe Director-General Else Groen have issued the following joint statement:
Europe’s retailers and wholesalers operate in a limited number of countries, and in a highly competitive market, with high fixed costs and low margins of 1-3%. Retail Alliances help create efficiencies and synergies in sourcing in the single market when dealing with powerful multinational brand suppliers who operate across the globe and enjoy margins some ten times higher than those of retailers. These suppliers are constantly presenting retailers with price increases bearing little connection to the product or the cost of producing it. Retail alliances also help mitigate the negative impact of territorial supply constraints imposed by large brand suppliers, which fragment the single market and lead to often significant and unjustified price differences across Europe. European retail alliances are all subject to clear governance principles to ensure compliance with EU and national regulation, including competition rules.
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Speaking today at the start of the EU Industry Days, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren stressed the central role of the retail and wholesale ecosystem in supporting and driving economic recovery and Europe’s global competitiveness, but also a sector under immense pressure and in urgent need of help:
“As recognised by the European Commission, retail & wholesale is one of the essential ecosystems and one the worst affected by the COVID pandemic. Private consumption makes up over half of European GDP. As a consequence, the retail and wholesale ecosystem is pivotal to creating markets for the goods and services that many ecosystems produce, and it is crucial for the economic recovery. Yet, much of our sector, with millions of SMEs, is facing imminent bankruptcy and is in need of urgent help to continue and accelerate its digital and green transformation.”
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Commenting on the launch today of the EU Trade Policy Review, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
”The COVID pandemic and restrictions arising from it have hit many businesses hard over the past 12 months and also hit international trade. The Commission review of the EU’s trade policy is a welcome step to reinforce the measures the EU and governments have taken to boost the economic recovery. Open markets in Europe and outside will be a powerful driver for the EU economy to pick up again.”
Retailers and wholesalers rely to open markets to ensure that consumers have access to a wide choice of the products they need. We therefore support the concept of “open strategic autonomy” but will be pressing the need to ensure that this does not lose sight of the “open” part of the approach. Global value chains are a reality and key to European competitiveness, and trade has made a massive difference to the lives of many millions of people across the globe. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the need for reliable supply chains, particularly for sensitive products. But it has equally shown that this is best achieved by diversifying, rather than restricting, sources of supply.
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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Speaking today about decisions in some EU countries to close a number of their borders, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retailers and wholesalers rely on many thousands of suppliers across Europe to ensure that Europe’s consumers can have the daily essentials they need. We have consistently lived up to that obligation all through the COVID pandemic. We also fully support all measures necessary to stop the spread of the virus and its new variants. But this can be done without making border crossing impossible for lorries carrying the goods consumers need. We therefore wish to remind all member states of the real problems which arose for goods traffic and cross-border workers last year when borders were closed, and of the important guidelines the Commission issued to resolve those problems. We all want people to be safe, but also able to have the things they need to help them have as normal a life as the present - abnormal - circumstances allow.”
The first wave of the pandemic last year sparked off a series of border closures which member states believed would help stem the spread of the COVID virus. In doing so, they initially gave little thought to the impact of such closures on cross-border flows of goods which consumers and industry needed to have available every day. They also prevented many thousands of workers living one side of the border from getting to their workplaces on the other side. The Commission acted quickly to issue harmonised guidelines which set up ‘green lanes’ for goods traffic and special arrangements for cross-border workers. Those are still valid and vital in the second wave we are experiencing now. We are therefore asking member states, not least those which also act as transit routes for exports from other EU countries, to adhere to those guidelines, and adopt proportionate measures to keep their citizens safe while not unduly hindering the flow of goods and cross-border workers within the single market.
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Noting the European Parliament’s adoption today of the own initiative report drafted by Jan Huitema MEP (Renew, NL) on the Circular Economy Action Plan, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren underlined the retail and wholesale sector’s commitment to the circular economy and the important role which Eco-design can play in this:
“Our sector has already shown its readiness to undertake a wide range of measures to reduce the environmental impact of how it does business and of the products it sells. The report from Jan Huitema makes an important point – that we need to address circularity in a holistic manner. Research shows that 80% of the environmental performance of a product can be achieved at the design phase. The proposal to review the Eco-design directive is important in providing the right framework for sustainable consumption, and likely to be more effective than rather less well-defined and less easily achievable targets for reducing overall levels of consumption.”
Retailers and wholesalers have been active advocates and drivers of sustainability and circularity. We believe strongly that the transformation of Europe’s economy to become more circular needs a major change in the way all stakeholders think and act, and above all, how they work together, whether in industry, distribution, consumers or in governments. Our sector is more than ready to do its bit, but this will only work if it is in concert with the whole supply chain and within a regulatory framework which facilitates the steps needed to achieve a circular economy.
Services Directive: a comprehensive report on its application under Article 41 - Joint Letter to DG GROWRead more
BUSINESSEUROPE, EUROCHAMBRES and EUROCOMMERCE have been consistently stressing the importance of the services sector to the EU economy, businesses and consumers alike. Economic activity in Europe remains disproportionately hit by Covid-19, and the service sector will be crucial to accelerating Europe’s recovery.
The overall post-2019 contribution to the EU economy from services is estimated at €389bn or 2.28% of EU GDP, and a further €284bn of gains would be possible under full implementation of the Services Directive*. The growing trend for EU industry to offer substantial services alongside their products and use services as input also provides a major opportunity to both service providers and industry: services generate 27% of the value added in EU manufacturing compared to 20% in the US; yet our productivity in services is only around half that of the US level**. It is therefore clear that significant growth potential remains untapped as long as there is no free movement of services in the EU.
The European Commission’s Long-term Action Plan for Implementation and Enforcement of Single Market Rules partly acknowledged the current situation with the measures on services it foresees. However, a difficult political debate caused a set-back to the agenda on services as the Commission was forced to withdraw the remainder of the 2017 Services Package.
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Welcoming the launch of a Commission investigation into a new case of possible blocking of parallel imports by a food manufacturer, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“While not wishing to preempt the outcome of this particular investigation, we are happy to see the Commission taking further action on territorial supply constraints. This is an issue we have been flagging for many years and whose impact – a cost to European consumers in the magnitude of €14 billion - was confirmed in the Commission study released last November. Brand manufacturers fragment the single market to maintain artificial price differences across Europe. This means consumers paying more, and the efficiencies, which the single market is there to achieve, being undermined. At a time when the European economy needs all the help it can to recover, this is not the right way to go. That is why we are asking the Commission to find a lasting solution to allow the single market to work for sourcing.”
Strengthening sectoral social dialogue in the services industry: The all-important role of social partners in building a resilient Europe.Read more
The origin of European social dialogue lies in the EU’s decision to address social and economic issues arising from the creation of an EU single market through discussions between representatives of employers and workers (Art. 154f). Social dialogue has been the cornerstone of the social dimension of the single market.
The services sectors, that we represent, are the backbone of Europe’s economy. They underpin both growth and job creation, as well as Europe’s competitiveness in the world. Our social dialogues are key instruments for developing both quality services and jobs. At the same time, technological advances, such as digitalisation, have led to significant changes in the services sectors, resulting in possible overlaps between some European sectoral social dialogues.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the services’ sectors have proven their importance and enabled our economies and societies to keep going. At European level, sectoral social dialogue of the services sectors has provided the framework for the discussion and adoption of joint statements, recommendations, and guidelines and proved to be an essential channel to communicate sectoral needs to the European institutions. Services’ social partners emphasised the importance of a constructive sectoral social dialogue. Sectoral social dialogue was instrumental in engaging common discussions in the sectors on the consequences for the ‘after Covid-19’ world of work as well as the requirements for recovery.
Our initiative to discuss common challenges among the European sectoral social partners from the services sectors complements our respective social dialogues’ endeavours. We welcome the opportunity to highlight the importance of European sectoral social dialogue and look forward to exchanging further on how to strengthen it during these critical times.
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The below signatories call for the immediate setting up of a hospitality task force across the EU Institutions to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on business and jobs and deliver a road map for the recovery of the hospitality sector and its value chain.
COVID-19 has hit Europe hard, taking thousands of lives, destroying families and impacting the health of many more people. We would like to first and foremost commend the hard work and diligence of Europe’s health and frontline workers, who have proven themselves the true heroes of this crisis. We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrival and distribution of successful vaccines gives us hope for 2021 and a successful recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also hit livelihoods and businesses hard, throwing Europe’s restaurants, bars, hotels, cafés, pubs and nightclubs into a deep crisis. The hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit, with businesses being forced to shut down at short notice as part of the collective fight against the virus and many workers being laid off temporarily or definitely.
It has led to a dramatic knock-on effect on its suppliers. Many actors in the food supply chain such as farmers, processors, traders, wholesalers, and food and drinks manufacturers face severe hardship. Many of these sectors are primarily made up of SMEs and these businesses are intrinsic to the functioning of the hospitality sector.
We turn towards 2021 with the core objective of creating some predictability for the hospitality sector and its supply chain, through a safe, timely and sustainable reopening as soon as the economy starts to open up again.
These hospitality businesses are part of the European social and economic fabric, bringing diversity and vitality to city centres, rural communities, villages and tourist areas across Europe. Bars, restaurants and cafés help attract people to town centre shopping districts and, likewise, these shopping destinations help bring custom to town centre hospitality venues. This is part of the European way of life, combining tourism, high quality food, services and culture.
Retailers and wholesalers working hard for sustainability, ready to work with all in a code of conductRead more
EuroCommerce, Euro Coop, and Independent Retail Europe today joined Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, senior MEPs and other stakeholders at an event to launch work on a code of conduct under the Farm to Fork strategy.
Retailers and wholesalers of all sizes have been in the forefront of increasing the sustainability of the products they offer. They have launched initiatives all over Europe to drive and support sustainable production and consumption by working with their suppliers, supporting farmers in moving to organic and other sustainable production methods, and innovating in offerings to consumers, including via their own brands. Retailers’ doors are open to everyone, allowing daily engagement with, and scrutiny by, consumers. The direct interface between suppliers and consumers which our sector provides offers new and rewarding market opportunities for all producers of sustainable products and can help nudge consumers towards buying them. The scale which our sector can offer to producers can also allow a wider public to buy high quality, healthy food at an affordable price.
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Speaking today after the adoption of Council conclusions on Circular Economy Action Plan, EuroCommerce Director General Christian Verschueren said:
“The conclusions drawn by Ministers echo our view that the circular economy offers major opportunities both for our sector and for society more generally. It allows everyone to rethink existing business models, offer alternative products and provide the means and support for consumers to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Our sector can help this process by working in two directions - both driving, and responding to, changes in the demands of consumers and society.”
Retailers and wholesalers have a long track record of commitment to improving the sustainability of their products and activities, and implemented numerous initiatives to achieve this. The sector has pioneered a range of actions, from fighting food waste, improving energy efficiency and resource use in their operations, reducing the amount of packaging, to companies setting clear targets to becoming carbon neutral. As societal commitment to the environment grows, the clearer it becomes that no single actor or sector can achieve these objectives alone. We will therefore need to ensure a coordinated approach involving regulators, suppliers, and actors within each sector.
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As the Commission launches its proposals for the Digital Services (DSA) and Digital Markets Acts (DMA), EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“The Commission is right to look at the rules impacting e-commerce in line with the accelerating digital transformation of our sector. Consumers must be able to trust that what they buy is safe and complies with EU rules. We are therefore encouraged that the proposed DSA seeks to ensure products offered for sale online are compliant with EU rules and that the Commission has sought to clarify the responsibilities of online marketplaces. We take note of the proposed Digital Markets Act and ask EU decision-makers to ensure that new rules provide necessary legal certainty and support strong retail and wholesale ecosystems in the EU. We will work with the Commission, Parliament and member states to take forward these two proposals in a way which aids competition, innovation and consumer protection”
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Speaking today ahead of the Commission workshop on the results of their study on Territorial Supply Constraints (TSCs), EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are very grateful to the Commission for following up retailers’ and wholesalers’ concerns at the fragmentation of the single market caused by large brand manufacturers simply refusing to allow them to buy their products where it makes most commercial sense. We are pleased that the study shows the facts confirming that this problem exists, and that resolving it would save consumers no less than €14 billion, and – equally important – give consumers more choice. We are therefore asking for urgent action to make the single market a reality in this area.”
Every day, large manufacturers are insisting that retailers and wholesalers buy only from their designated distributor in the country where their product is sold to the consumer. This means that retailers cannot buy centrally, nor move the products they have bought from one market they serve to branches in another. This makes no sense in a properly functioning single market, and makes no sense for consumers. It cannot be ignored any longer.
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EuroCommerce today released a study by retail payments consultancy CMSPI and antitrust and economics advisers Zephyre on the rise since the adoption of the EU Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) in the fees paid by merchants accepting card payments. EuroCommerce Director-General said:
“We have been a strong supporter of the Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) ever since its adoption in 2015, as a means of limiting the amount paid by merchants and consumers for credit or debit card transactions.Unfortunately, as we have warned before, the large international card schemes have meanwhile raised the fees not regulated by the regulation to such an extent that all the benefits to consumers and merchants have now disappeared. We are therefore asking the Commission urgently to look at action to restore the balance originally achieved by the regulation”.
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At its 2020 flagship conference today, EuroCommerce is bringing together high-level speakers from the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee, senior retail HR executives, and trade unions representatives, for an exchange on how retailers and wholesalers are keeping pace with the rapidly changing world of work. Retail and wholesale – Europe’s largest private sector employer – provide stable and fulfilling jobs for 29 million people. They have a strong track record in also equipping them with the skills they need to meet ever changing consumer demands and changes in how and what they want to buy
Addressing the conference, European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said to retailers and wholesalers:
“Reskilling and upskilling of your workforce are going to be key for the resilience of your sector. The EU is mobilised to support the necessary effort in partnership with member states and most importantly, the private sector.”
Emphasising the important role of social dialogue, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Constructive social partnership can help the resilience of retailers and wholesalers and support and equip employees in a changing world of work. We have discussed examples of best practice today for attracting and retaining talent as well as up- and reskilling existing employees. These show that real change is often best made incrementally at the workplace level rather than through legislation. We are looking to the European Commission to leverage best practice in training to help SMEs up- and reskill their workforce. We also ask that they invest in the capacity of social partners to promote these examples through autonomous social dialogue throughout Europe.”
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EuroCommerce Director-General expressed support for the conclusions in the Commission report on the working of the Geoblocking regulation issued yesterday:
“We are pleased that the Commission has decided to leave the Geoblocking Directive unchanged until their next review in 2022. We fully support the creation of a single market for e-commerce, and call on the relevant parts of the Commission to look at the major differences in member states’ consumer rules, and risk of exposure to legal action in an unfamiliar jurisdiction. Both act as a powerful disincentive to e-traders actively expanding cross-border.”
The Geoblocking regulation adopted 2 years ago obliged online traders to sell to any consumer regardless of their location, but, due to problems relating to the Rome and Brussels regulations, did not oblige traders to deliver outside their own jurisdiction. The Commission decision to wait another 2 years before looking to revise the Geoblocking regulation makes sense, and retailers and wholesalers welcome the conclusion in the report not to change the provisions related to delivery.